After Monday’s latest win – the 15-year-old sensation’s first major main draw appearance as a direct qualifier – she now holds the distinction of six main draw wins at the slams before the age of 16.
If there was ever a match-up to represent the future confronting the past, this was it.
When you navigate your way to Gauff’s profile page on the WTA website, her age is listed as N/A. Perhaps they’re still looking for proof.
Quirkily, this match also represented the extremes on the age scale for American women’s tennis – a 24-year gap. Not that American tennis officials would be too worried by one player eliminating another: an astonishing 22 players from the United States reached the main draw at Melbourne Park.
When Gauff was born in Florida in March 2004, Williams already had four of her seven major titles, including Wimbledon wins in 2000 and 2001.
Gauff’s huge upset over Williams at Wimbledon was the start of a charge that went all the way to the fourth round when the teenager lost to eventual champion Simona Halep.
It’s not surprising that Coco became a crowd favourite at Wimbledon and then again on home turf at the US Open where she backed up her heroics on grass with a progression to the third round at Flushing Meadows.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic in Melbourne on Monday as the star teen was made to work hard for the opening set, pushed all the way to a tie-breaker that meant she had to spend more than 90 minutes on court.
“I just want to say thank you guys so much,” Gauff told the centre court crowd after her victory as the rain bucketed down outside and stopped play around Melbourne Park.
“I mean you guys were chanting my name and I only thought that would happen at the US Open.
“So for you guys to do that in Australia means a lot to me.”
Gauff will face Romanian Sorana Cirstea, who earlier beat Barbora Strycova 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), for a place in the third round.
As for Williams, she knows there’s no ceiling for one of the top emerging players in women’s tennis.
“She clearly wants it, and works very hard, and is very mature for her age,” Williams said. “The sky is the limit for her.”
Scott Spits is a sports reporter for The Age