LONDON: Coco Gauff stunned Wimbledon with her run to the fourth round aged just 15, but the youngest player competing at the All England Club is her friend Linda Fruhvirtova — who only recently turned 14.
It was not so long ago that the Czech teenager was scrambling for autographs from the big stars in tennis; now she is playing on the very same courts.
Fruhvirtova, who turned 14 in May, is competing in the juniors at Wimbledon, balancing her debut on the prestigious lawns with her school books.
“I always went for exams and tests to school but I don’t have a problem to manage school with tennis,” she told AFP.
“I’m really good at school — and I want to keep it like that. I like most of the subjects.”
Roger Federer, 37, plays old rival Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon men’s semi-finals on Friday.
Federer had already racked up four Grand Slams before Fruhvirtova was even born in May 2005.
“That’s crazy! He is for sure a legend of tennis and just the best player in history,” said the youngster, swigging on a blueberry smoothie.
She has met the Swiss great and was in awe, and used to love getting a signature from her favourite players.
“It was amazing to talk to him. He’s a really nice guy, a really good guy,” she said.
“A few years ago I did collect autographs. So many. The Czech players, Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka.
“A lot of the top Czech players practice at the club where I did. I usually get to meet them quite often. We say hi.”
– Braces and bracelets –
The youngster, who wears braces on her teeth and bracelets for luck on her wrist, is currently on her career high junior ranking of 31.
The teenager made her Grand Slam juniors debut in May at the French Open and this is her first time playing at the All England Club.
“Wimbledon is a great experience, for sure. This is a beautiful Grand Slam. It has its traditions, playing all in white, and there are so many flowers. It’s just unique,” she said.
Fruhvirtova lost her third round girls’ singles match to Indonesian 16-year-old Priska Madelyn Nughroho 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Wednesday, missing out on a quarter-final place.
She is still in the doubles with 17-year-old compatriot Kristyna Lavickova, playing in the second round on Thursday for a last-eight spot.
US teen Gauff stole headlines at Wimbledon with her stellar run to the women’s last 16, which began by knocking out former champion Venus Williams.
Fruhvirtova and Gauff chatted during the tournament, but said it might be too much to dream that she could repeat her friend’s exploits next year.
Her achievement here was just amazing. Such a great result,” the Czech said.
It’s not exactly the right thing to compare me and her because we are really in different situations and two different people.”