LONDON (AFP) – Fifteen-year-old sensation Coco Gauff’s magical Wimbledon journey continued on Friday night when the American youngster saved two match points to reach the last 16.
Gauff, ranked 313 and who came through qualifying, battled back from 2-5 down in the second set and held her nerve when Slovenian opponent Polona Hercog clawed her way to 4-4 from 1-4 in the decider.
Her reward is a fourth round clash on ‘Manic Monday’ against former world number one and ex-French Open champion Simona Halep.
“I’m just super relieved that it’s over, it was a long match,” said Gauff.
“She was playing unbelievable. It was my first match on Centre Court, people say Court One is my court, maybe Centre can be too now.
She added of her second set recovery, “I knew I could come back so I just kept going for my shots.”
Gauff’s dramatic victory on an enthralled Centre Court overshadowed Novak Djokovic’s passage to the last 16 for the 12th time.
The four-time champion is one of just four top 10 seeds left in the tournament along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori.
Defending champion and world number one Djokovic defeated Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 7-5, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-4.
He will next face Ugo Humbert of France, the world number 66.
“He was fighting. He was playing well, serving well and hitting clean and accurate shots,” said Djokovic who is now level with Boris Becker in third place on the all-time list with 12 last-16 places.
Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors lead the way with 16 apiece.
However, Kevin Anderson, the 2018 runner-up and fourth seed, slumped to a shock third round 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) defeat to Argentina’s Guido Pella, the 26th seed.
“He made life really difficult for me,” said Anderson, playing just his second tournament since March after recovering from an elbow injury.
Pella goes on to face 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic for a place in the quarter-finals.
In the women’s event, Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova reached the fourth round for the second successive year with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win over Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.
Pliskova, who fired 14 aces and 42 winners, will next face compatriot Karolina Muchova, the world number 68, who put out Estonian 20th seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (9/7), 6-3.
Muchova is making her Wimbledon debut as is 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska and the 35th-ranked Ukrainian marked the occasion by also making the last 16.
She put out Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 6-3 and next meets unseeded Chinese player Zhang Shuai.
World number 60 Zhang made the fourth round for the first time, coming back from 0-4 down in the opening set to beat former world number one Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2 who failed to see eye-to-eye with the Hawk-Eye line call review system.
Before this year, the 30-year-old Zhang had never won a main draw match at Wimbledon in five attempts.
It was a record which reflected her previous struggles – she was 0-14 at the Slams until she broke through to the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals.
On Friday, she fired 26 winners against just eight for Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion.
Wozniacki’s affection for the tournament would not have been helped by her unhappiness at what she claimed to be a number of poor calls by Hawk-Eye.
“You trust that it tells you the right thing. Sometimes you do see the balls a little differently than Hawk-Eye,” said the 28-year-old.
Zhang, the first Chinese woman in the last 16 in five years, said, “These three matches, I’ve moved well. If I want to win, I must be focussed, clear my mind and play my game.”
Raonic, the 15th seed, reached the fourth round for the fifth time by seeing off the sport’s tallest man Reilly Opelka of the United States 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, 6-1.
France’s Benoit Paire booked a last 16 place for the second time with a 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) win over Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely.