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Navarro eliminates Gauff at Wimbledon to reach first Grand Slam quarterfinal

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LONDON (AP) — Things were not going well for Coco Gauff against Emma Navarro at Centre Court, not well at all, and she kept looking at her guest box for help from her coaches. One, Brad Gilbert, would stand up and gesture, and they would talk back and forth, but a fix did not arrive.

Gauff has yet to make it past the fourth round at Wimbledon, and she exited at that stage again Sunday, eliminated by Navarro 6-4, 6-3 in an all-American matchup.

“We had a game plan going in, and I felt that it wasn’t working. I don’t always ask for advice from the box, but today was one of those rare moments where I felt I didn’t have solutions,” said Gauff, the reigning U.S. Open champion and seeded No. 2 at the All England Club. “I don’t want to say I didn’t have any, because I think I’m capable of coming up with some. Today, mentally, there was a lot going on. I felt like I wanted more direction."

Hers was the latest in a series of departures by top women from the Wimbledon bracket this year: No. 1 Iga Swiatek lost on Saturday, No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka withdrew with an injured shoulder before playing a match and No. 6 Marketa Vondrousova, last year's champion, was defeated in the first round.

Only two of the 10 highest-seeded women remain: 2022 champion Elena Rybakina, who is No. 4, and recent French Open runner-up Jasmine Paolini, who is No. 7 and meets Navarro next. Rybakina plays her fourth-round match Monday, while Paolini advanced Sunday when Madison Keys stopped playing because she was hurt.

The 19th-seeded Navarro, who writes herself notes in her phone to prepare for matches, reached a major quarterfinal for the first time. She showed exactly the type of tennis she’s capable of playing in the second round, when she got past four-time major champion Naomi Osaka.

“I'm believing that this is possible as it’s happening. I’m starting to think, ‘Why not me? Why not? Why can’t I make a quarterfinal run? Why can’t I go deep in Grand Slams?’” said Navarro, 23, who grew up in South Carolina and won the 2021 NCAA championship in her first year at the University of Virginia.

On Sunday, she noticed the interactions between Gauff and Gilbert — and the player's growing displeasure with her performance.

“I don’t normally give the other side of the court too much energy. I keep it on my side of the court. (But) I guess seeing her kind of frustrated and looking at her box, putting her arms up in the air — it’s definitely a little bit of a confidence boost,” Navarro said. “I guess it maybe gave me a little bit of momentum and just some energy that I needed.”

In addition to Gauff's trophy from New York last September, the 20-year-old from Florida has been the runner-up at the French Open and reached the semifinals at the Australian Open.

And while her first big breakthrough came at the All England Club at age 15, when she became the youngest qualifier in tournament history and beat Venus Williams in the first round en route to getting to the fourth, Gauff never has bettered that result.

She also exited in the fourth round in her next appearance, in 2021, then lost in the third round in 2022 and the first round a year ago.

On Sunday, Gauff kept making mistakes, finishing with more than twice as many unforced errors, 25, as winners, 12. Her biggest issue was the shot that opponents know is Gauff's weakness: the forehand.

Navarro kept hitting to that side, and it worked.

“I really wanted to attack her forehand,” Navarro said afterward.

Gauff made 16 unforced errors with forehands, and another 16 forced errors, accounting for 32 of the 61 total points won by Navarro.

“I have the ability to raise my level when players play well, and I feel I didn't do that today,” Gauff said.

She explained that when she's sought a mid-match assist from her coaches in the past, “They usually gave me something,” but added: “I don't think we were all in sync.”

“No one's (to) blame except myself,” Gauff said. “I mean, I’m the player out there.”

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis