Sport Tennis Australian Open Australian Open: Coco Gauff channels Venus in repeat win
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Australian Open: Coco Gauff channels Venus in repeat win

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Coco Gauff celebrates en route to a repeat opening-round grand slam win over Venus Williams. Photo: Getty
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After her breakout performance over Venus Williams, on the courts where the seven-time grand slam champion established her legacy, Coco Gauff presciently told reporters: “My goal was to play my best. My dream was to win. That’s what happened.”

The 6-4 6-4 victory at Wimbledon did not serve as a shock.

She was where she was destined to belong, inspired by the likes of Venus and Serena. The result was a foregone conclusion.

And so, when the pair were cruelly, hilariously drawn to meet once again in the opening round of the Australian Open, with Gauff still yet of legal driving age, that youthful temerity would face arguably a bigger test.

Could lightning strike twice? The answer, from the opening game, was destined to be a resounding yes.

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Coco Gauff’s powerful groundstrokes on full display on Margaret Court Arena. Photo: Getty

Gauff’s returns off the Williams serve – while 24 years her senior still packed serious venom – dropped deep, yielding winners or forced errors at will to establish the earliest of breaks.

Three service games in, she made 100 per cent of returns in court, showing mental fortitude well beyond her years.

On her serve, she was blistering, with plenty of precision to boot, particularly in drawing Williams out wide on the forehand.

The lesson from their first encounter seemed to be sticking: Move the elder stateswoman around.

But never count out the sheer weight of decades-old experience, because midway through the first set, early sloppiness from the Williams racquet gave way to stinging power and improved accuracy.

While the scoreboard was not reflecting the mood, the tide was turning, and it all laid bare in the all-important seventh game, when Williams held strong by fighting through a five-deuce game to emerge intact.

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Venus Williams found her range as the first set wore on, before Coco Gauff ran away with the match. Photo: Getty

Still, there were few inroads on the Gauff serve.

And serving down set point at 5-3, Williams’ resilience weathering tricky sliced backhands in an extended 15-shot rally was rewarded with luck on the net tape.

Heading into the first-set tiebreak, after a nifty close-court exchange boasting drop shots and a deft volley from Williams, the momentum was evenly poised.

Gauff’s highly effective crosscourt backhands were complemented by her idol’s forehand equivalent.

Then, the tidal wave of youth was overwhelming.

The Gauff dream, the irresistible spirit that drove her to the Wimbledon fourth round, was revived with bellowing roars, and first-set tiebreak success.

With that deficit and another early break in the second set, there was little Williams could do to stem the bleeding, and on match point, Gauff’s reliable drop shot sealed the deal, 7-6 (5) 6-3.

This time the jubilation was less unhinged. This felt familiar.

On court, Gauff took courtesy to point out the crowd’s extraordinary support, in light of her fledgling career.

“You guys were chanting my name and I only thought that would happen at the US Open,” she commented.

If the Gauff way is to continue carrying out that winning dream, inspired by the likes of the Williams sisters, then she may find she’s destined to receive plenty more plaudits from far-flung corners of the world.

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