Updated at 4:30 p.m. Monday
Out of escapes, out of surprises, Atlanta-born Cori “Coco” Gauff knew her captivating Wimbledon ride at age 15 was nearing its conclusion.
The thousands of spectators at Court No. 1 on Monday realized it, too, so they made sure to show their appreciation for the youngest qualifier at the All England Club in the professional era and youngest Week 2 participant since 1991.
I tried my best today but it wasn’t meant to be … thank you London.”
Coco Gauff on Instagram after Monday’s match
Fans, most of whom probably hadn’t heard of Gauff until last week, rose and roared as she fended off the initial two match points she faced against 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep.
It was reminiscent of the way Gauff began a comeback victory in her previous match. This time, though, Gauff could not come through, beaten by the older, more experienced Halep 6-3, 6-3.
“It was really surprising because you don’t really expect this kind of support when you’re in another country, not your home country. I really did feel like I was probably playing in New York. I’m just really happy that people believe in me,” said Gauff, who beat Venus Williams in the first round for quite a Grand Slam tournament debut.
“I wasn’t feeling my best, I wasn’t playing my best,” Gauff said as she wiped away tears at her news conference, where she noted she wasn’t sure why she needed a visit from a doctor in the second set, “but they were still supporting me, no matter what.”
For Gauff, this was her seventh match in short order — three in qualifying, four in the main draw — and while she insisted she wasn’t fatigued, she looked it.
Still, with serves reaching 119 mph, a dynamic backhand that landed near lines and aggressive volleying, Gauff made an impression on anyone who watched her.
Not to mention anyone who played her.
“It’s a great performance. I think if she keeps going, she will be (in the) top 10 soon,” Halep said. “She will be a very tough opponent for everybody. If she keeps doing what she did here, she’s going to get a lot of confidence and she can win big tournaments soon.”
Now the trick will be to manage those sorts of expectations.
Gauff is, after all, too young to drive a car. She is taking high school courses. Instead of hanging out at a mall or going to see a movie with friends or working as a camp counselor Monday, there she was at Wimbledon at 1 p.m., standing in the tunnel that leads to the court with her father, Corey.
He draped his arm around her shoulders, then parted ways by giving his daughter a peck on the cheek.