To get better at being single, Coco Gauff makes a double

WIMBLEDON, England – Coco Gauff, 17, and Roger Federer, 39, are at opposite ends of their playing careers, but they continue to share the same coveted property.

The two were again on center court at Wimbledon on Saturday, just like Thursday.

Gauff went first, beating Kaja Juvan 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the tournament where she became a star in 2019 by reaching that same round on her Grand Slam singles debut.

Federer went next, battling through a rough patch to win 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 over Cameron Norrie, an unorthodox but dangerous British southpaw who stole much of the crowd’s support of Federer but ultimately not his thunder.

Gauff, who received a few plum mandates during her short time as a professional, told me she sees herself as the first part of Federer.

“You know how at concerts they have a great artist, then a smaller artist comes before them? ” she said. “That’s how I like to think about it. It’s pretty cool. Roger definitely has a big influence on my mentality on and off the pitch. He’s always someone I can go talk to if I can. need some advice. “

This is in part because Gauff is represented by the agency that manages Federer and in which he has a financial stake.

But unlike her mentor, Gauff did not return to the London hotel bubble after finishing her singles match on Saturday. She had doubles to play and she advanced to the round of 16 in this event also with her partner, Caty McNally, beating Paula Badosa and Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-4.

Gauff said one of the best advice she received after her breakthrough at Wimbledon was from Michelle Obama, the former first lady.

“I got requests from everyone, all over the place,” she said. “I found myself unable to keep up. I really went from not being known to everyone who wants something. She told me it was OK to say no.”

But Gauff always says yes to doubles. She and McNally, 19, were nicknamed ‘McCoco’ when they qualified for the 2019 US Open third round as wild cards, drawing big crowds along the way, and they have the potential to. do much deeper runs together.

Their friendship is strong and their mutual understanding on a tennis court is evident. They communicate frequently, move together intuitively, and make a chest-leaping version of the now-retired Bryan twins after the wins.

Call it the side hump, and Gauff and McNally take to the air.

“Caty and I are good friends – it’s really nice to be at the same tournament with someone you love to hang out with, especially at my age,” Gauff said in a recent interview. “I think for both of us, being friends benefits us a lot, especially because on tour in the bubble you don’t go out as much and don’t have as much social life.”

Singles remain the coin of the kingdom. Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal did not become the Big Three playing in doubles, even though Nadal and Federer both won Olympic gold in doubles.

The leading men, who play best-of-five singles matches in Grand Slam tournaments, do not play doubles at these events, although Nick Kyrgios, the Australian showboating star, has grown accustomed to do so and play in mixed doubles. at Wimbledon with Venus Williams this year. But he may have paid the price for that workload after a long layoff and pulled out after just two sets with an abdomen injury in his third round singles match against Felix. Auger-Aliassime Saturday.

But leading women are another matter when it comes to doubles, and although Aryna Sabalenka has recently decided to focus solely on singles in major tournaments, that’s not the trend.

Last month, Barbora Krejcikova became the first woman to win the singles and doubles titles at Roland Garros the same year since 2000. Krejcikova and her partner, Katerina Siniakova, are back in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, where they won the title. together in 2018.

Although Siniakova’s singles tournament ended on Saturday with a loss to first seed Ashleigh Barty, Krejcikova is in the fourth round of the singles after beating Anastasija Sevastova in a nervous three sets which was the last sign of her ability. to play decisive points better than she. peers.

No longer a doubles specialist, Krejcikova is in singles at Wimbledon for the first time and will face Barty in the round of 16, likely with an excellent scouting report from Siniakova.

“I am very surprised,” Krejcikova said of her continued success. “In Paris, I had a few matches where I was far behind, and I still managed to find a way. With every match like this, I feel like even though I tell myself I’m tired, and I can’t do this anymore, or my legs are shaking or I’m not feeling well, I can always fight, and I can always win. So, this is something that before Paris I didn’t know I actually had. “

Gauff and Krejcikova are the only players still competing in women’s singles and doubles at Wimbledon. No man is yet in contention in the men’s singles and doubles.

It has not always been so with men, but it has been a long time. John Newcombe won both titles in 1970, in partnership with Tony Roche. John McEnroe won both titles in 1981, 1983 and 1984, in partnership with Peter Fleming.

McEnroe, not a huge fan of the practice, liked to say he used doubles for training, and although the game has undergone major changes in the past 40 years, McNally and Gauff can relate to each other. The same goes for Corey Gauff, who trains his daughter, and Kevin O’Neill, who trains McNally on the road.

“Corey and I talk about it all the time,” O’Neill said on Saturday. “In the juniors, when you play a tournament, you always play singles and doubles, and that helps your game. It helps you improve on all your shots and become more of a player on all courts. “

Coco Gauff and McNally are both engaged in this process, focusing on getting to the net more than most of today’s top players. Volleyball is an integral part of the doubles, but it’s not the only advantage for an aspiring singles champion.

“It helps me a lot to have these extra reps,” Gauff said. “When I play doubles, I start to come back better in singles. I feel like in doubles there’s more pressure to come back, just because there’s another person at the net and you don’t want them to sting your partner. “

The other advantage for O’Neill is the ability to compete more often under pressure.

“Doubles puts you in big situations with big points, just like singles,” he said. “And the more you keep putting yourself in these situations, the more comfortable you will feel and the more successful you will be.”

Managing the physical and mental load is the challenge, but Krejcikova proved it was still possible in Paris, just as Serena Williams proved it was still possible at Wimbledon, most recently in 2012 and 2016, when she swept away singles and doubles, in partnership with his sister. Venus.

Gauff and McNally have big plans themselves.

“We’re both discussing how we both want to win the Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles, hopefully against each other in the final one day and against each other in doubles final, ”said Gauff. “I’ve faced her a few times in the juniors and she is honestly one of the best competitors I know. She’s someone who will hate your guts on the pitch but be your best friend off the pitch, and that’s something I really respect about her. “

Their next chance to team up will come on Monday, but only after Gauff has played his singles match. It will be on center court against former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, followed by Federer against Lorenzo Sonego, which should come as no surprise at this point.

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