Look at her now: Coco Gauff enters new chapter of remarkable Wimbledon story

Coco Gauff lost in the first round of Wimbledon 12 months ago but is a different player a year on  (Getty Images)
Coco Gauff lost in the first round of Wimbledon 12 months ago but is a different player a year on (Getty Images)

Take a look at her now: a year on from the first-round defeat at Wimbledon that left Coco Gauff in a “dark place”, the American is marching on and looking like a potential champion too after a statement opening victory over her compatriot Caroline Dolehide.

Five years on from her breakthrough at Wimbledon as a 15-year-old, Gauff took top billing on Centre Court and played like a contender for the title, demolishing her friend Dolehide 6-1 6-2 in just 64 minutes.

This was a victory that was never in doubt after Gauff broke her opponent in the opening game of the match. The 20-year-old didn’t look back, bringing a calm assurance and confidence that allowed her powerful and aggressive game to flourish against her mismatched opponent, ranked 51st in the world. “I was trying to have fun and enjoy it,” she said after an emotional win and cleansing night.

It was quite the contrast to 12 months ago and the result on Court No 1 that changed everything. Gauff said the pain of her defeat to Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open winner and French Open finalist, in the first round of Wimbledon lasted for three weeks. But Gauff used the defeat to go back to the drawing board, learned what was missing from her game, understood how much further there was to go. and from there went on a run that culminated in her first grand slam title at the US Open.

At Wimbledon, as she returned as a grand slam champion and the world No 2, Gauff took a moment to appreciate how she responded to the immense disappointment of her first-round exit. “I wish a year ago, me after that match could see me now,” Gauff said before the tournament.

Well, just look. On a gloomy Monday evening at Wimbledon, Gauff lit up Centre Court, displaying the vast improvements she was forced to make to her game. The American set off with intent and never let up on the intensity, playing with poise, picking her spots, displaying drop shots and thundering overheads, staying patient and serving impressively.

“She would be really happy,” Gauff said of her former self, the player who crashed out at the first hurdle 12 months ago. “I think I was very nervous going into today. Obviously there’s some times when you do bad at a tournament, you kind of let those same feelings creep in. But the worst that happened happened already last year, so worst case you just have to live it twice. That was the mentality going into today.”

Gauff celebrates during her first-round over Caroline Dolehide (Getty Images)
Gauff celebrates during her first-round over Caroline Dolehide (Getty Images)

A wide-open Wimbledon is now stacked even more in her favour after world No 3 Aryna Sabalenka withdrew due to a shoulder injury. Gauff lost to Sabalenka in the Australian Open semi-finals at the start of the year and they were on a potential collision course at Wimbledon. Other than Gauff, Maria Sakkari, ranked ninth, is the highest remaining seed in her section.

What remains remarkable, aside from the fact that Gauff is playing in her fifth Wimbledon at the age of 20, is that she has not yet progressed further than the fourth round she reached on her memorable debut. That run, before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep, remains her best result. Now, with her teenage years behind her, that seems certain to change in 2024 - and everyone will be looking at how far Gauff has come.