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Wimbledon roundup

Jimmy Myers
Wimbledon roundup
No. 2 seed Coco Gauff appeals to her trainer for guidance. PHOTO: PA Wire

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The indelible image of Coco Gauff, with hands spread before her and the words “give me something,” is now a permanent part of her tennis legacy following her major meltdown during her straight-set loss to Olympic teammate Emma Navarro in third-round action at Wimbledon. Gauff, the defending U.S. Open champion and second ranked female tennis player in the world, bowed out of this year’s Wimbledon in what some will say was a pitiful display of sportsmanship mixed in with a bad dose of immaturity.

Emma Navarro playing in the first round of the 2023 US Open PHOTO: Hameltion

It was bad enough that Gauff, the number two ranked player at the historic All-England tennis event, went down to the 19th ranked Navarro; she added insult to injury with her boorish behavior. Gauff exploded at her coaches in a tightly contested match, continually asking them, “Tell me something. You guys aren’t saying anything.” This surprising outburst caught her coach, Brad Gilbert, and the rest of her team in the guest box totally off guard. Gilbert attempted to calm down his 20-year-old star with no success. The sellout crowd in attendance, along with millions of television viewers, saw Coco Gauff at her worst in the pressure-filled moments of the match. 

To her credit, the 23-year-old Navarro kept her cool, refusing to criticize Gauff, who kept interrupting the flow of the match with her repeated outbursts. “I was here to do my job, and trying to win the match is all I was trying to do,” Navarro said.

Jasmine Paolini is the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon semi. PHOTO: Hameltion

It was a different story for Coco Gauff, who took a pounding from the British press. When harshly questioned about her on-court meltdown, Gauff’s only response was, “We had a game plan going in, and I felt it wasn’t working. I don’t always ask for advice from the coaching box, but today was one of those moments where I felt like I didn’t have solutions. Mentally, a lot was going on, and I felt I wanted more direction.” That answer did not sit well with the prickly British press contingent, who gave her a full dose of their vitriol in the printed word.

The consensus is that Gauff is another spoiled American who cannot manage the price of fame. She has been made rich as a teenager due to her spectacular tennis ability. Some have dubbed her “The Next Black Queen of Tennis,” and the most likely successor to Serena Williams. That is a lot to put on the shoulders of any female tennis player. 

Gauff is trying to follow the path of a legend, which is challenging. Her every step is highly scrutinized. She and every other Black female tennis player will always stand in the shadow of “the Great Serena Williams.” That is unfair but true. Remember that Serena Williams received sideline coaching during her playing days and had a history of intense exchanges with her team during matches. 

Madison Keys at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships. PHOTO: SI.ROBI

The fact is that both Williams sisters, the older Venus and the younger Serena, went through many more difficult trials and much greater pressure than Gauff, Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys and the rest of today’s Black female tennis players. The sheer dominance of Serena Williams made tennis a “must-see” event, especially for Black people. 

With the exits of Coco Gauff — her fifth straight failure to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon — Naomi Osaka, and Madison Keys, who had to retire from her match with Jasmine Paolini due to a hamstring injury, there are no Black American females left in this year’s Wimbledon competition.  With upsets of number one Iga Swiatek, number three Aryna Sabalenka and number six Marketa Vondrousova, only two of the top 10 seeds, number four Elena Rybakina, the 2022 champion, and number seven Jasmine Paolini, the runner-up in the recent French Open, are left to battle for the top prize.

14th seed Ben Shelton PHOTO: SI.ROBI

There is no such dream for Black Americans on the men’s side of the net at Wimbledon. The last hope for the United States evaporated when 21-year-old Ben Shelton went down in straight sets, 6-3,6-4 and 7-5 (11-9 in the tiebreaker) to number one seeded Jannik Sinner. Shelton had played three straight five-set matches leading up to his loss to the Italian.

He followed the departures of Francis Tiafoe, Gaël Monfils, and 6’8” fellow French sensation Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. Perricard previously teamed with Arthur Fils to win the Junior French Open Doubles title. Historical note: Arthur Ashe is still the only American Black male to win the men’s singles title, back in 1975.

Coco Gauff, Emma Navarro, Jasmine Paolini, Sports, tennis, Wimbledon

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