IT all ended in tears after day one of Wimbledon. While Cori Gauff, a 15-year-old from Atlanta, wept as she announced herself to the world with a sensational 6-4, 6-4 victory over five-time champion Venus Williams, 21-year-old Naomi Osaka, the No 2 seed and reigning US and Australian Open champion, simply asked to be excused her post-match interview when asked if the struggles of global fame were getting to her following her 7-6 (4), 6-2 first-round exit to Yulia Putintseva. “Can I leave?” she said. “I think I’m about to cry.”

More dreams died in the men’s singles too, with two of the biggest hopes outwith Wimbledon’s big three biting the dust in the form of Alex Zverev of Germany and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. Aged 22 and 20 respectively, the claims of the No.6 and No.7 seeds to this title perished in a flurry of teeth, hair and limbs within half an hour of each other on the opening afternoon. This year is clearly too early for them, even if it is too early to write them off in the future.

Gauff wasn’t the only teenager who lived up to the billing: Felix-Auger Aliassime, all of 18, got the better of a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 Canada Day cracker against his countryman Vasek Pospisil although it says it all about the yearning for fresh blood in the men’s game that he was asked whether he can go the whole way after what was only his first Grand Slam win.


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But this was undeniably Gauff’s day. And judging by the manner the youngest-ever qualifier in the history of this event nervelessly swatted aside five-time champion Venus Williams on Centre Court, she may have many more here in the future. Signed to the same agency as Roger Federer, Gauff looked like a younger, better version of the woman, some 24 years her senior, on the opposite side of the net. Whether it is this year or next, we can confidently pencil her in alongside Boris Becker and Martina Hingis in the list of talented teenagers who have made these lawns their playground.

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, Gauff just beat hers. “I don’t really know how to feel,” she said, shortly after Williams netted on match point to surrender the match, the pair exchanging nice words at the net before the teenager dropped to her knees and shed a tear. “That is the first time I have ever cried after winning a match. She congratulated me and I said thank you for everything she has done for me, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. I wanted to tell her that. Even though I had met her before, I didn’t have the guts to tell her.”

Plenty of seasoned tennis watchers had a good gut feeling this year about Tsitsipas, a player who has more wins on the tour than anyone – including Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. The Greek had also been a whisker away from his first Grand Slam final in Paris when he lost a heart-breaker to Stan Wawrinka. But he was comprehensively outgunned yesterday by a veteran Italian in the form of Thomas Fabbiano. While the 30-year-old got the benefit of a net cord on his first break point in the final set, the World No.102 delighted the Court No.2 crowd with some inspired tennis, leaving Tsitsipas with no excuses as he picked the bones out of a 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(8), 3-6 defeat to an opponent he comprehensively defeated here last year.


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“We've seen players my age, many years ago, I would like to name Rafa, Roger, seemed very mature and professional what they were doing," he said. "They had consistency from a young age. Something that we as the Next Gen players lack, including myself as well, is this consistency week by week. It's a week-by-week problem basically.”

Zverev, the World No.5, is pretty consistent at this venue – he has still never got beyond the last 16 here in five visits. By that age, his fellow German Becker had five Grand Slam titles to his name. No wonder he was pretty down on himself after this 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 5-7 defeat to Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, even if some undisclosed off-court problem had played a part. “It was kind of a typical Grand Slam match for me,” he said. “I started off well, then one or two things don't go my way, and everything kind of a little bit falls apart. Yeah, I'm not very high on confidence right now.

“The last two days, I would say are very rough for me personally. I'm not going to get into details, I'm just saying."

Given such a boulevard of broken dreams, Auger-Aliassime was simply delighted to be in the next round – even if he was pouring scorn on the bookmakers who make him sixth favourite for the title.“Obviously I'm not saying I'm here to lose - if I can go all the way, I'll go all the way," he said. "But it's a bit exaggerated to put me as maybe a fifth or sixth favourite to win the title. That's a bit crazy.”


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One old faithful, mind you, was moving – metronome like – through this draw as usual, reigning champion Novak Djokovic, although even he had to produce some excellent tennis straight off the bat to get rid of Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. There were gasps when the 35-year-old Kohlschreiber, a man with a 2019 victory against him on his resume, broke the Djokovic serve in the opening game of the match but the Serb’s class told. Having been detained for more than two hours on court in this 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win but never seriously panicked, he said it was the perfect opening to his bid to equal Bjorn Borg on five Wimbledon singles titles.

Having quietly added Goran Ivanisevic to his coaching team, he revealed that he had spent time with the Croat prior to his famous 2001 triumph here and was taking some of the credit for it. “He was at the Niki Pilic Tennis Academy in Germany, where I spent quite a lot of time between age of 12 and 16,” said Djokovic. “It happened to be that famous 2001 when he received the wild card here in Wimbledon, and he came over to the academy for several weeks. I had the permission to approach him while he was training and to bring him some snacks because he was hungry, training a lot. I think those snacks really made the difference for him in Wimbledon.”

One man hoping to emulate Ivanisevic and become the first wild card to win the title here is Feliciano Lopez, the 37-year-old Spaniard. A simple straight-sets win over qualifier Marcos Giron of the USA saw the Queen’s Club champion move quietly through to the second round, where he will face No.10 seed Karen Khachanov.