Coco Gauff’s Wimbledon draw has blown wide open – can world No 2 take advantage?

Coco Gauff in Wimbledon action.
Coco Gauff is a heavy favourite to reach a first Wimbledon final.

It was job done for Coco Gauff at Wimbledon on Monday – and comfortably so.

The world No 2 and second seed eased past compatriot Caroline Dolehide on Centre Court, barely breaking a sweat in an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 victory.

The reigning US Open champion was always a title contender, but after a dramatic opening day of the Championships, her chances look better than ever.

Gauff has been handed a golden chance to go deep at Wimbledon – and potentially lift the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Can she take advantage of the incredible opportunity presented to her?

Coco avoids carnage

Gauff’s undramatic, easy victory did not make too many headlines thanks to huge talking points elsewhere.

No story was bigger than the withdrawal of Aryna Sabalenka, the world No 3, reigning Australian Open champion, and two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist who was left unable to play due to a “very rare” shoulder issue.

Sabalenka was a popular pick to lift the title and all eyes were on a potential semi-final between her and Gauff, a rematch of their Melbourne semi-final in January – and the US Open final last summer.

Sadly, the former world No 1 was not the only player forced to pull out of the tournament on day one.

Sixteenth seed Victoria Azarenka – Gauff’s projected round four opponent – also pulled out due to a shoulder injury, while 22nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova withdrew with illness.

It wasn’t only chaos off-court, with plenty of drama on the court.

The biggest upset of the day saw eighth seed Zheng Qinwen downed 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 by qualifier Lulu Sun, the Australian Open finalist’s recent struggles continuing.

The 29th seed Sorana Cirstea, the American’s predicted round three opponent, was beaten by qualifier Sonay Kartal, while 24th seed Mirra Andreeva and former finalist Karolina Pliskova are also out.

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How does her path look?

The 20-year-old will again be a significant favourite for her second-round match against Anca Todoni, the Romanian having beaten lucky loser Olga Danilovic in her opener on Monday.

After that, with Cirstea gone, Gauff is guaranteed to face no seeded play before the second week, with Kartal or Clara Burel up against her in round three.

With Azarenka gone, it would be a projected clash against 19th seed Emma Navarro in the fourth round, before a quarter-final against seventh seed Jasmine Paolini – who picked up her first Wimbledon win on Monday.

Her hypothetical semi-final opponent is well and truly up in the air, with Sabalenka and Qinwen out of that third quarter.

Ninth seed Maria Sakkari is the highest-ranked player left in that part of the draw, but the Greek has a poor Slam record in recent years.

The likes of 14th seed and Eastbourne champion Daria Kasatkina, 25th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, or home favourite Emma Raducanu may fancy their chances – but this quarter is certainly up for grabs.

Who could trouble her?

Realistically, Gauff should have little issue dispatching Todoni, and then one of Burel or Kartal.

However, things would potentially get more difficult in the round of 16.

Navarro is the only seed she could face at that stage but she faces a fascinating contest on Wednesday against wildcard Naomi Osaka, making her first Wimbledon appearance since 2019.

The winner of that would then face Sloane Stephens, impressive in her opening victory over Elsa Jacquemot, or Diana Shnaider, the Bad Homburg champion who downed Pliskova.

Few sections of the women’s draw are this intriguing, and any of those four could trouble Gauff.

But, make no bones about it, Gauff should be the favourite to beat any of them, considering her recent Grand Slam form.

Further ahead, it could be 12th seed Madison Keys she faces in the quarter-final instead of seventh seed and French Open finalist Paolini.

Paolini’s first wins on grass have come this year and the 28-year-old is in the form of her life, but this is a notoriously tricky surface to master.

A strong Slam performer, with two Wimbledon quarter-finals to her name, Keys is probably the favourite to reach the last eight from this section.

Having beaten Gauff in Madrid this season, the former US Open finalist will certainly fancy her chances if the two do meet in the last eight.

That would be a difficult match for Gauff, but she is more than capable of winning, and one she arguably should be prevailing in considering her greater consistency at this moment in time.

Her Slam form in recent months has been incomparable to any other woman on her side of the draw, and it will be a slight disappointment if she now does not make the final.