Before Cori “Coco” Gauff’s fourth-round match at Wimbledon, experienced chair umpire James Keothavong asked the American how to pronounce her last name.
Being meticulous, he just wanted to make sure.
Even though the ailing 15-year-old lost to Simona Halep, the world knows ever more about the teen who has attracted legions of new fans including Michelle Obama and Jaden Smith.
And for the record, it is pronounced “Goff.”
It took someone of Halep’s pedigree — a former world No. 1 and grand slam winner — to finally subdue the precocious Gauff 6-3 6-3 on the same court where her transformative fortnight at Wimbledon began by defeating one of her idols, Venus Williams.
Fan favorite Gauff
Gauff, perhaps feeling ill, was seen by the trainer and doctor early in the second set and took medication.
However, the match slipped from her grasp midway in the opener as Halep at one stage claimed six of seven games to build a set and break advantage.
Halep has been voted women’s tennis’ top favorite by fans the past two seasons but against Gauff, even the popular Romanian appeared to be outnumbered on Court 1. “Come on, Coco” was a familiar yell.
No changing the trend, then.
The throng on Henman Hill for example cheered Gauff on Friday when she saved a pair of match points to defeat Polona Hercog in a heartstopper that drew the highest peak audience for host broadcaster the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage the first five days.
Her previous two tussles featured in the top eight, including the shock win over Williams that made Gauff the youngest player to win at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
Before then, the Florida resident had already become the youngest qualifier to make the main draw at Wimbledon and that while having to take a science test during qualifying week.
Back home, fans gathered at her dad Corey’s bar in Delray Beach to witness her accomplishments.
Corey and Candi have turned into celebrities, too.
But her bid to emulate Capriati 28 years ago and make the quarterfinals stopped at the hands of Halep, the first top-10 opponent she faced in her now blossoming career.
Halep lost to another American teen, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, to end her French Open defense in June so wasn’t keen on suffering the same fate.
The speedy pair traded breaks to begin with before Halep took control at 2-2, aided by a tough call that went against Gauff.
At deuce, Gauff’s zipped cross court backhand — maybe the most potent shot in her arsenal — was called wide by the lines person but overruled by Keothavong.
He was proved correct by Hawk-Eye but instead of Gauff winning the point — Halep realistically had no play — Keothavong ruled the point to be replayed because it was an early call.
Broken two points later to the crowd’s dismay, Gauff dropped her racket and slapped her hands in frustration.
From 4-3 in the first, Halep won four consecutive games and surged to 2-0 in the second.
Goodbye, for now
Gauff’s comeback spirit has been witnessed throughout the tournament and she got back on level pegging at 2-2, after the doctor and trainer paid a visit.
Halep, however, went on another surge.
Gauff saving two match points at 2-5 evoked memories of Friday. Yet on her third opportunity, Halep sealed her spot in the quarterfinals when Gauff’s forehand sailed wide.
Both players left court to huge applause, with Gauff offering a subtle wave.
It was a wave goodbye but Gauff has introduced herself to the world this fortnight.