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Coco Gauff overcomes Sonay Kartal’s home-court advantage to reach 4th round at Wimbledon

LONDON — Coco Gauff has been a crowd favorite at Wimbledon ever since she burst onto the grass as a 15-year-old by beating Venus Williams in the first round in 2019.

So it was slightly strange for the American to know that a large section of the crowd would be rooting against her in the third round on Friday. That’s because she was going up against Sonay Kartal, a British qualifier who had exceeded expectations just by making the third round.

“I think this is my first time ever playing a British player here, so I was a little bit nervous honestly, going in,” Gauff told the crowd after wrapping up a 6-4, 6-0 win on No. 1 Court. “Because I knew you guys would be for her. Which is totally understandable.”

After facing a tough test in the first set, Gauff took her game up a notch in the second to quickly dispatch Kartal and get back into the fourth round at the All England Club for the first time since 2021.

“She was playing at a high level, she wasn’t giving me much to work with, and she does a good job with mixing up variety, so you never feel settled,” Gauff said of Kartal after their first career meeting. “And I felt like I was going for the right shots, I was just missing. But eventually I found it, and then I was able to do well.”

Gauff lost in the first round at Wimbledon last year to fellow American Sofia Kenin, then went on to win her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.

She’ll play another American next in Emma Navarro, whom she beat in straight sets in Auckland in January. Navarro is making only her second appearance at Wimbledon, having lost in the first round last year, but also made the fourth round at the French Open in June.

“I think when I played her at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t necessarily ready for that challenge,” Navarro said of Gauff. “I know I have the level inside of me that can beat a player like her. It’s maybe just a matter of doing it on a bigger stage.”

Gauff is likely to have a majority of the crowd support back for that one, and learned at the U.S. Open just how important that can be.

“Coming from experience playing at home in the U.S., you always just play better and do better,” Gauff said, before endearing herself a bit more to the British crowd.

“Thankfully you guys are pretty nice to me,” she said, “so that helped.”