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Gauff overcomes Kartal's home-court advantage to reach fourth round at Wimbledon

Coco Gauff Wimbledon Coco Gauff - The Canadian Press

LONDON (AP) — Coco Gauff is no stranger to making the fourth round at Wimbledon. She went that far as a 15-year-old newcomer playing in her first Grand Slam tournament in 2019, and then again on her next appearance in 2021.

She's never been to the quarterfinals at the All England Club, though, and will get a third crack at it after beating British qualifier Sonay Kartal 6-4, 6-0 in the third round on Friday.

But for someone who played in two Grand Slam finals before turning 20 — winning one of them, at last year's U.S. Open — just getting to the quarterfinals, even at Wimbledon, isn't much of a goal.

“I feel like at this point, it feels as if losing in the fourth (round) or the quarterfinals feels the same in a way, just because I do have such big aspirations,” said Gauff, who also reached the semifinals at both the Australian Open and French Open this year. “I feel like it sucks to say this, but once you win, you kind of take it for granted. I try not to, obviously. When you make a lot of quarterfinals in Slams, in general it just makes you want to make it to a semifinal. You make a couple semifinals, you want to make the final.”

Gauff is one of two former U.S. Open champions who are looking to get past the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time. Emma Raducanu is back into the second week for the first time since her debut as an 18-year-old in 2021, when she had to retire with breathing problems in the second set against Ajla Tomljanovic and later said the moment had “caught up” with her.

After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, the British home favorite is playing some of her best tennis since winning the 2021 U.S. Open title as a qualifier, and beat No. 9-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-2, 6-3 on Centre Court.

And any discomfort with playing in front of a home crowd with huge expectations seems to have gone away.

“Today was really up there with the most fun I’ve had on a tennis court,” Raducanu said. "I really enjoyed every single moment. I think I was just telling myself, how many times in your life are you going to get the opportunity to play in front of a full Centre Court?”

Gauff has also been a crowd favorite at Wimbledon ever since she burst onto the grass by beating Venus Williams in the first round in 2019.

So it was a slightly strange feeling for the American to know that a large section of the crowd would be rooting against her on Friday. That's because she was going up against Kartal, a British qualifier who had exceeded expectations just by making the third round.

“I think this is my first time ever playing a British player here, so I was a little bit nervous honestly, going in," Gauff told the crowd after her win on No. 1 Court. “Because I knew you guys would be for her. Which is totally understandable.”

Gauff will play another American next in Emma Navarro, who she beat in straight sets in Auckland in January. Navarro is making only her second appearance at Wimbledon, having lost in the first round last year, but also made the fourth round at the French Open in June.

“I think when I played her at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t necessarily ready for that challenge,” Navarro said of Gauff. “I know I have the level inside of me that can beat a player like her. It’s maybe just a matter of doing it on a bigger stage.”

Other women to advance to the round of 16 included Madison Keys, Paula Badosa, Donna Vekic and French Open finalist Jasmine Paolini.

Raducanu, who is also playing mixed doubles with Andy Murray, will next face qualifier Lulu Sun, who became the first woman from New Zealand to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon in the Open era.

Sun has a lot in common with Raducanu. Both have Chinese heritage on their mother's side, and Sun has also managed to make it far in a Grand Slam as a qualifier.

“Qualifiers are actually sometimes more dangerous,” Raducanu said. “I’m really up for a battle, though.”


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