Gauff the star turn as women prepare for last 16 showdowns

London (AFP) –


Teenage sensation Coco Gauff has lit up the first week of Wimbledon with her winning performances on and off court but if her fairytale run is to continue she must overcome former number one Simona Halep in the last 16 on Monday.

The 15-year-old American, who still has a way to go to emulate Jennifer Capriati who reached the semi-finals in 1991 at the same age, will be punished by Halep if she reproduces the same error-strewn performance in her thrilling three set win over Polona Hercog on Friday.

"I feel like I've always been confident in myself," said Gauff.

"I think I learned that I'm capable of doing a lot of things. I feel like my confidence has been the same the whole tournament."

Her exploits have done wonders in boosting the image of women's tennis and seven-time champion Serena Williams believes she could go the whole way.

"I think there's some 15-year-olds, like me, who wouldn't know what to do at Wimbledon," said Williams.

"Then you have a 15-year-old like Coco who knows what to do.

"It really depends. I think she's definitely on a different level, so I think she's totally capable and ready, to be honest."

Australia's world number one Ashleigh Barty looks in ominous form and although she lost on grass on the only previous occasion she played last 16 opponent American Alison Riske it was three years ago.

"You ask any opponent that plays Alison, she's up for the fight, makes you work for every single point," said Barty.

"I think it will be really important for me to go out there and try and bring my variety, take my opportunities when I get them.

"I will have to be at my best."

- 'Don't want to fall' -

Williams may also be hitting form at the right moment -- a knee injury affected her clay court campaign -- as her win over Julia Goerges on Saturday was by far the most impressive performance of her three matches.

The 37-year-old, who is still tantalisingly one away from equalling Margaret Court's haul of 24 Grand Slam titles, faces Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.

"I just need to keep it up," said Williams.

"Like I said, each match for me really counts. I haven't had a tremendous amount.

"It's just keep going, doing what I'm doing in practice hopefully."

Williams will play Barty in the last eight if both come through Monday's matches.

"You don't want to fall because you know what it's like to be at the top, you know how it feels," she said.

"At least I do, I know how it feels, how you want to stay there, how you want to get back there."

A rival who knows what it is like to have to fight to get back to her previous level through no fault of her own is two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

The 29-year-old Czech, who lost over a year of her career after being stabbed, has looked in good shape and will play Britain's Johanna Konta in what is her first appearance in the last 16 for the first time since 2014 when she won the second of her titles.