Coco Gauff lays down Wimbledon marker with dominant all-American win | Tennis | Sport

Five years since her breakthrough at Wimbledon, Coco Gauff proved exactly why she is considered one of the favourites to win this year’s title, claiming a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over her fellow American Caroline Dolehide in just over an hour.

With the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka withdrawing, coupled with Karolina Pliskova’s defeat to Diana Shnaider and Iga Swiatek’s uncomfortable record on grass, Gauff will be considered one of the heavy favourites with the bottom half of the draw wide open.

Gauff had defeated her American compatriot twice in their two meetings before closing out play on Centre Court on the opening day of Wimbledon, determined to seek redemption for last year’s first-round exit to another Stateside star, Sofia Kenin.

Dolehide, who has never gone past the first round at SW19, struggled to find her service game early and double-faulted in the first set, allowing her US Open champion opponent to claim a very early break.

The second seed swiftly held her serve 40-0 to set up what already appeared to be a difficult lead to overcome. Dolehide would have feared the worst when her 40-0 lead to hold serve quickly evaporated, but the 25-year-old kept her nerve to get on the scoreboard.

A sensational long rally ended with Gauff somehow defending a bullet from the world No. 51 before lobbing her opponent gave the 20-year-old advantage at duece, before breaking Dolehide for a second time and led 4-1.

Gauff is no stranger to the big stage, beating Venus Williams on her Wimbledon main-stage debut and reaching the fourth round at the age of 15. There were no Centre Court nerves on day one, comfortably seeing out the first set 6-1 in just 30 minutes with a third break of serve.

The second set followed suit, with Gauff getting another early break on the board with her third game to love, a relentless pursuit of points that left Dolehide hoping that her fellow American may soon show some mercy.

That mercy did not arrive, however, as an air of inevitability surrounded Gauff. She appeared to know that a wide-open draw has given her the best chance of surpassing the fourth round for the first time. She knows how to win Grand Slams and is itching to prove that once more.

Whether Dolehide came to the net or stood back, played for drop shots or hit with power, no course of action was preventing Gauff from speeding into the next round.

Some solace arrived when Dolehide was able to avoid the very real threat of getting bagelled with the whole world watching and then won a second consecutive set for 4-2, but that small relief was quickly quashed as Gauff took the final two sets with relative ease to spark jubilation on Centre Court.

“I am really happy with how I played today,” Gauff said in her on-court interview. “It’s always tough playing a friend like Caroline, she’s a great friend and a great person. Last year I lost first round. It was a tough moment for me. I’m a little emotional. It’s been a long year, but it’s incredible how I was able to turn it around.

Wimbledon is the place where I believed the dream was possible. Being back on this court… I’ve played on a lot of big courts but every time I play here it’s the most nervous I ever feel playing tennis. Even more than playing a grand slam final. Something about Center Court is so special at Wimbledon. It’s an honour to be back. I don’t take it for granted.”

With her convincing victory, Gauff has set up a second-round clash with Anca Todoni, world No. 142, after the Romanian star’s 7-5, 6-1 victory over Olga Danilovic.

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