Gauff falls to Halep, still ‘super proud’ of run

WIMBLEDON, England — American teenager Coco Gauff said she was “super proud” of her run to the last 16 at Wimbledon and will continue to “dream big” as she makes her way on the women’s tour over the coming months.The 15-year-old, who was the youngest player ever to qualify for the main draw and beat five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round, lost 6-3, 6-3 to the former world No. 1 Simona Halep in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday.Playing on No. 1 Court, the second-biggest stadium at the All England Club, Gauff had plenty of support from the crowd. But Halep, the 2018 French Open champion and a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2014, had the better shots. She broke Gauff five times and took advantage of 29 unforced errors.Gauff did manage to save two more match points when serving at 5-2, but Halep won the next game to reach the quarterfinals.Gauff, whose Wimbledon run caught the attention of the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama, said she had enjoyed every minute of her first Grand Slam event.”If somebody told me this maybe three weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t believe it,” she said, wiping away a tear or two. “I think just putting in the work definitely raised my confidence because I knew how hard I worked and I knew what shots I could make and what was possible.”I lost second round of qualifying in Paris (at the French Open). Now I made it to the second week. I’m super proud of myself. I’m excited to see what I’ll do at the US Open and the next couple tournaments coming up. But these past two weeks have been amazing. I’m excited to be back next year.Having won three matches in qualifying, each without dropping a set, Gauff outplayed Williams in the first round.But she was even prouder of the way she battled in the third round, when she saved two match points and came from a set and 5-2 down to beat Polona Hercog of Slovenia.”I hope they (people watching) learned about me that I’m a fighter,” she said. “I’ll never give up. I hope they learned from me that… anything is possible if you work hard, just continue to dream big.”I learned a lot. I learned how to play in front of a big crowd, I learned what it was like to be under pressure. I learned a lot and I’m really thankful for this experience.”Definitely, I would say my attitude on the court, continuing to fight for every point, that definitely helped me win the last three matches. I think if I keep that up, I’ll keep doing well.”Gauff thrilled the crowds at Wimbledon throughout the first week and her efforts were noticed around the world, with the likes of Magic Johnson, the Miami Heat and Reese Witherspoon all offering their congratulations and best wishes.Gauff said the attention had been “crazy,” especially when Obama tweeted her support.”It meant a lot to me because I’ve looked up to her for a long time,” Gauff said. “She’s such a role model. I mean, I was really shocked. I wasn’t expecting that. Some of the celebrities that tweeted me I didn’t even know followed tennis. They probably don’t follow tennis, but… I don’t know, it’s crazy how big this has gotten.”Gauff’s ranking is now projected to rise from No. 313 to No. 139 but WTA Tour rules limit the number of tournaments players can play before they turn 18.Gauff says she will finish her high school work in the next couple of weeks and will continue to study online but said she is excited for the future.”I’m only 15,” she said. “I’ve not nearly gotten or developed my game. I started tennis at 6. I’m so excited to see, if I continue to work hard, what other success I can do in the future.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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