Emma Navarro surprises Coco Gauff at Wimbledon, reaches quarterfinals

LONDON — Coco Gauff wasn’t having a good time against Emma Navarro on Centre Court, not at all, and she kept looking to her guest box for help from her coaches. One, Brad Gilbert, stood up and gestured, and they chatted back and forth, but there was no resolution.

Gauff has not yet made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon. She was also eliminated in that round on Sunday by Navarro, who was eliminated 6-4, 6-3 in an all-American match.

“We had a game plan and I felt like it wasn’t working. I don’t always ask for advice from the box, but today was one of those times where I felt like I didn’t have any solutions,” said Gauff, the reigning U.S. Open champion and No. 2 seed at the All England Club. “Mentally, there was a lot going on and I felt like I needed more direction.”

Her exit was the latest in a string of top women’s seeds to have dropped out of Wimbledon this year, with No. 1 Iga Swiatek losing on Saturday, No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka withdrawing with a shoulder injury before playing a match and No. 6 Marketa Vondrousova being defeated in the first round.

Only two of the top 10 women remain: 2022 champion Elena Rybakina, who is ranked No. 4, and recent French Open runner-up Jasmine Paolini, who is ranked No. 7 and will now face Navarro. Rybakina plays her fourth-round match on Monday, while Paolini continued on Sunday when Madison Keys withdrew due to injury.

Navarro showed what kind of tennis she is capable of in the second round when she defeated four-time major champion Naomi Osaka.

“I don’t have a lot of words for it,” said the 19th-seeded Navarro, a 23-year-old who grew up in South Carolina and won an NCAA championship for Virginia.

“I played really aggressive. Coco is obviously a great player. I have a lot of respect for her and what she’s done at such a young age is really amazing. I knew she wasn’t going to make it easy for me tonight,” said Navarro, who reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. “But I wanted to play aggressively and counter her game and I think I was able to do that.”

In addition to her trophy in New York last September, Gauff, a 20-year-old from Florida, has finished second at Roland Garros and reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open.

Her first major breakthrough came at the age of 15 at the All England Club, where she became the youngest qualifier in the tournament’s history, beating Venus Williams in the first round to advance to the fourth round. Gauff never improved on that feat, however.

In her next participation, in 2021, she was already eliminated in the fourth round. In 2022 she lost in the third round and a year ago in the first round.

On Sunday, Gauff continued to make mistakes, finishing with more than twice as many unforced errors, 25, as the winners, 12. Her biggest problem was the stroke that opponents know is Gauff’s weak point: the forehand.

Navarro kept hitting that side and it worked.

Gauff made 16 unforced errors with forehands and another 16 forced errors, which together accounted for 32 of Navarro’s total of 61 points.

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

She explained that in the past when she asked her coaches for assistance during a match, “they usually gave me something,” but added, “Today I don’t think we were all in sync.”

“It’s nobody’s fault but me,” Gauff said. “I’m the player that’s standing there.”

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