IF you are good enough, you are old enough. That quote of Sir Matt Busby’s can still be found on the Manchester United dressing room wall and it equally applies to the locker room at the All England Club.

From Martina Hingis to Jennifer Capriati and Tracy Austin, talented teenagers are writ large in the history of these championships and on day one of the women’s competition the remainder of the field are set to be upstaged by a remarkable 15-year-old called Cori Gauff.

For those who haven’t heard yet about Gauff – who won the Roland Garros junior title last year at the age of 14 – you are about to be reading rather a lot about her.


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Going by the nickname “Coco”, this daughter of a basketball player and track star (above) became the youngest ever player in the open era to make it through qualifying, a feat she achieved without dropping a single set. With a tie-in with Roger Federer via her agent, Gauff already has sponsors drooling over her and has been working for a couple of years with Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. Last on Court No.1, another layer of lustre is added to the story by the fact that she faces five-time winner Venus Williams (inset, right) some 24 years her senior. Serena, for one, sees much of her sister in the willowy form of Gauff.

“It’s interesting,” said Serena yesterday. “Because Cori is such an exciting young player. She’s so cool, she’s a great girl. I love her dad. They’re just really cool people. It’s a great moment for her and for Venus. It’s going to be a big moment for Venus, as well. She’s playing against a player that actually reminds me of Venus, the way kind of her body and everything. So I know that they both want to win obviously and go to the next round. I think it will be really important for both of them. It will be a good match. I might watch.”


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Naomi Osaka, another prodigious player who followed the Williams blueprint to the top, is also in action today against Yulia Putintseva, but she doesn’t mind being overshadowed either.

“I wasn’t here when I was 15, so props to her,” said Osaka. “I actually hit with her two years ago or something. I thought she was really good. When I was 15? I was playing, like, ITFs, so I’m really interested to see, like, where her path takes her.”

“I’m super happy for her,” said Federer. “I think it’s a great storyline. It will be a great, wonderful experience for Coco and Venus anyway. It’s a great story. Coco is a nice girl, works really hard. I think she’s obviously got a wonderful future ahead of herself.”

She is a young woman in a hurry but defending champion Kerber sent out a note of caution yesterday about the old guard, not least of whom is 37-year-old Serena.

She may not have won a tournament since giving birth but SW19 seems as likely a place as any for her to land that record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.


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“For me, Serena is one of the best players in the world,” said Kerber. “She’s a champion. To see how she is still competing and trying to coming back, trying to play her best tennis, she’s one of the toughest opponents to beat still. Also with her experience, how she tries to play always her best tennis. Of course, young players are coming, the next generation is coming, this is just normal. But for me she is still one of the best ones.”