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Coco still hot at SW19

TALENT: Cori 'Coco' Gauff has illuminated Wimbledon's first week

CORI 'Coco' Gauff booked a second week berth on her Wimbledon debut, despite losing seven games in the row and heroically saving two match points, at the expensive of Polona Hercog at SW1 on Friday evening.

The 15-year-old wildcard, who breezed past US icon Venus Williams and last year's Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova, saw her fairytale debut at the Championships continue with a thrilling 2-6 7-6(7) 7-5 triumph.

But last year's Junior Wimbledon semi-finalist, who was a shadow of her usual self for the first hour, refused to bow out without a battle once she was a game away at 5-2 from defeat and forced a tie-break.

Red-hot Hercog, who stunned American seed no.17 seed Madison Keys in her previous contest, relied on her power game and appeared to be a step too far for rising star Gauff at the All England Club.

The 15,000-strong Centre Court crowd were treated to a tantalising close encounter in the very opening exchanges.

But that soon altered when Hercog hit cruise control to reel off seven successive games.

The Slovenian tested the teenager's resolve with some clever sliced backhands, well-placed angled winners and power play from the baseline in an encounter that offered long rallies during the opening set.

Gauff held her nerve in the third game after she faced a break on her serve, something that she didn't experience in her win over Slovakian Rybarikova, to lead 2-1.

But she was broken in the seventh game, fortunate to get away with losing it when the ball was incorrectly called out. But on the next break of serve she floundered.

Hercog followed this up by wrapping up her service game within 60 seconds to pile the pressure on her American opponent.

Gauff, serving to stay in the set, had a terrible game. The first point was thumped back at over 100mph and the teenager pressed the self destruct button by serving two double faults to feebly concede the set after 36 minutes.

Not only was this the first set dropped by Gauff after winning three qualifiers and the first two rounds, but she had lost four games in succession.

Gauff made a sluggish start to the second set and was unable to weather the storm on the world's most famous tennis court to lose seven games on bounce.

The crowd, who had been stunned into near silence as Gauff capitulated, finally had something to cheer about when the rising star held her serve to reduce the deficit to 3-1.

Hercog dominated to terrorise the teenager, each holding service games to reach 5-2.

Gauff, lacking her usual fighting spirit, had pressure on her young shoulders to stay in the Championship on serve.

However, the 15-year-old saved a match point with a cheeky sliced shot that caught the line, and bagged the next two points to stave off her inevitable defeat.

Staring at defeat sparked Gauff into much-neeed life and she pounced on every ball. But facing a second match point Hercog nervously double faulted.

Gauff's fierce play earned two break points, sealing the game by once more hitting a sliced shot to trail 5-4. She then produced a rampant service game to level matters and her mood altered.

But the athletic Hercog proved too hot to handle, winning her serve with ease to once more be within a game of reaching the last 16 at a Grand Slam for the first time.

Gauff held her serve to force a tie-break, her first ever in a main draw on the WTA Tour and started to show fire in her belly.

Hercog carved her way into a 5-4 lead but the youngster, heavily favoured by the far from impartial crowd, fought back to win the next two points and serve at set point. She drove her shot long but was gifted a second set point when Hercog challenged whether the ball was out. Yet again Gauff misjudged a potential winner.

With the Centre Court crowd willing on the American to force a third set, they got their wish after a lengthy defensive rally was polished off with a firm volley.

The tie-break was a cautious affair with both players trying not to make errors and resorting to percentage tennis with seemingly endless sliced shots exchanged. Gauff, hugely supported by the crowd, lifted her game and snatched the set with a cat-and-mouse 9-7 success.

The deciding set was on a knife edge with the first 10 games equally divided.

The tenacious teenager pulled on all her resources to turn on the style and take a 6-5 advantage. The next game was up for grabs but, having stared down the barrel of defeat, Gauff was in no mood to prolong reaching the last 16. She then clinched one of the most memorable Centre Court fightbacks in recent Wimbledon history.

Gauff, who went into Wimbledon's qualifying round outside the world's top 300, will be elevated to within the top 150 next week.

But for now the teenager will have to get used to the adulation of being the most talented new kid on the block.

Now she has the weekend to prepare for her showdown with former world no.1 Simona Halep, who stands between the 15-year-old and a place in the quarter-finals.

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