After her stunning win over Venus on Monday, Cori Gauff was ecstatic but equally grateful for the opportunity. With added attention starting last on Court One, she flourished in a different type of test to beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3 – earning her place in Friday’s third-round.
Both started fairly well, but you could quickly tell whoever earned an early advantage would probably prevail. Gauff recorded two quick double-faults early on, but given how well she can serve, it comes with the territory.
Rybarikova, 30, got to the semi-finals at SW19 two years ago but has since fallen outside the top 100. Her experience and guile at the top level was sure to present a different challenge from Venus, despite her poor Grand Slam record.
In fairness to the Slovakian, she did exactly that: making Cori work hard for points and come forward more towards the net. Although what she didn’t expect was the teenager to be energised by the challenge, embracing it with open arms. Testing her range and shot variety, Gauff passed with flying colours. She won an important break point to get some separation and a 4-2 lead, before making it 5-2 soon afterwards.
Sticking well in rallies, she forced Magdalena into a number of unforced errors and held her own in rallies. That was sandwiched between some beautiful passing winners, leaving an opponent twice her age rooted to the spot helplessly at times. Taking the first set 6-3, Cori only registered four unforced errors and won 93% of her first serve points. That says it all, really.
Cori’s strong start forces Rybarikova into tricky position
Rybarikova knew she needed a response but was getting increasingly frustrated as her error count continued to rise. Whether it was drop shots or simple returns, they were often finding the net and simultaneously boosting Gauff’s morale.
Winning another break point, her confidence grew while she pushed the pace, whether it was through clever body shots or powerful groundstrokes which forced Rybarikova into uncomfortable situations.
After registering her third double fault of the match, Cori picked precisely the right time to hit her first ace of the match at 30-all on her serve. Another of the aforementioned body serves forced another mistake before an emphatic crosscourt winner saw her race earn a 3-1 second set lead.
Rybarikova, despite her mistakes, continued to battle. She saved two break points in the following game and suddenly her approach play at the net was beginning to prove more successful – before securing an important hold at 3-2 with a much-needed ace, having been 40-15 down at one stage.
However, that success was short-lived. Gauff restored her two-game lead on her serve, looking as imposing as ever while doing so. The longer the rallies went, the more success she had – 18 winners and just 10 unforced errors in an hour-and-nine minutes on court. Overpowering her was out of the question, while Rybarikova’s tendency to force the same shots proved too predictable, were easily countered and caused too many errors: 23 throughout.
That proved key as Gauff maintained her composure to book her place in Friday’s third-round, where she’ll play against Slovenian Polona Hercog – who beat 17th seed Madison Keys in straight-sets.