Venus Williams, Jamie Murray, Coco Gauff, Jack Sock

LONDON – Just seconds after the last scheduled match ended on Court 1 on Friday, an announcement was made. There will be another match later that night.

Few people left their seats and a palpable buzz spread throughout the stadium as fans waited for the players to arrive. As the news spread around the All England Club grounds, others entered the stadium to catch a glimpse.

When they debuted together, Venus Williams and Jamie Murray will undertake Alicja Rosolska and Michael Venus in a mixed doubles match in the first half.

Williams said that playing with Murray was something she wanted to do “forever,” but joked that he was “very hard to come by.” The 42-year-old arrived at Wimbledon with no plans to play at all, but changed his mind as soon as he saw the pitch. Her coach texted Murray at the last minute and he agreed to play with her – something they both seemed thrilled to be given the opportunity to do.

The combination of Williams’ superstar, 11-time Wimbledon champion in singles and doubles, playing in her first match since August, and local favorite Murray and won seven times in the doubles and medley events, instantly becoming a must-see.

They were more than hype in their dramatic three-set win that lasted into the night and required the roof to be closed for light. When it was over, the crowd – almost all of whom stayed until the very end – showered them with a warm round of applause.

“It was a great experience, [getting to] playing with Venus Williams,” Murray said after. When will I have a chance to do that? “

With so many household names absent before the second week at the All England Club, due to disturbances, COVID and the banning of Russian and Belarusian players, it is a much-needed dose of star power. at the tournament.

It also serves as a reminder that mixed doubles – also included Coco Gauff and Jack Sock team – maybe just the most entertaining tennis you haven’t seen at the All England Club.

Mixed doubles really don’t get a lot of attention in Grand Slam tournaments, but sometimes there’s a star-studded pairing that’s too hot to be ignored by the public. Such was the case for Williams and Murray’s younger brothers – you know, Serena and Andy – who teamed up at the All England Club in 2019 and made it to the third round.

While Williams-Murray teams often appear on performance courts, mixed doubles matches are often ranked on outside courts and are considered a last resort when scheduling matches for the day. They also struggle in the obscurity of television, rarely introduced. Not to mention, the winning team will earn just under $150,000 to split the split – up 24% from 2021 but still far from the $2.41 million awarded to singles champions or even 650,000 dollars for the double winning team.

But very few famous players participate for money or prizes. Instead, it’s an opportunity to compete with and against players they would never have shared the field with otherwise. And it’s a chance to enjoy the game in a super serious Grand Slam.

“Tonight was fun,” Murray said after the first game. “We had a good time. … [It’s] It’s great to be on the field with such a champion. “

Unlike mixed doubles that are held at every tournament within the framework of the tournament, mixed doubles takes place only in professional tournaments. Players do not even need to register until the first round of singles has taken place. There are very few opportunities to play with the same partner – let alone practice together – and the lack of consistent and unfamiliar pairings often results in some of the best moments on and off the court.

Gauff switched to Twitter To find her partner for the tournament, just post: “Who wants to play mixed at Wimby?”

Sock, who won mixed doubles at the US Open in 2011 and an Olympic gold medal in the event in 2016, didn’t hesitate to make his shot. “We’ll be a decent team,” he wrote along with the emoji about the eyes.

Gauff hinted that the two have formalized their partnership on TikTok by telling fans that “her partner’s last name is like a clothing article.” The social media back-and-forth added to the draw’s appeal before it was revealed on Wednesday.

On Saturday, hours after both Gauff and Sock had heartbreakingly lost their singles match, the two opened the mixed doubles match. Olivia Nicholls and Kyle Edmund. Despite their respective disappointments earlier in the day, neither Gauff nor Sock could hide their joy playing together in a 6-4, 6-1 win. When Gauff hit an easy header in the first set, Sock made some comments and Gauff couldn’t help but laugh.

“I was smiling, smiling in every way,” Gauff said afterward. “With the intensity of singles and even [women’s] double, it’s not really frequent [I can do that]. Yeah, for me, it’s crazy to play with him. It was definitely a bucket list for me and I’m so glad I was able to do it. “

Gauff was thinking of a potential semi-final against Williams and Murray when she spoke to reporters on Saturday, but that was not going to happen. Anyway, not this year. Williams and Murray failed in a dramatic third set tiebreak to lose 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (16) before Jonny O’Mara and Alicia Barnett on Sunday.

But, playing at the same time on adjoining courts, Gauff and Sock were one step closer to reaching the semi-finals – and beyond – with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) win. Nicolas Mahut and Zhang Shuai. They will play their next quarter-final on Monday and continue Alize Cornetwho ended Iga Swiatekstreak of 37 wins on Saturday, and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Cornet is just one of the other big-name singles players left in the mixed doubles draw. Former major champions Sam Stosur (with Matthew Ebden) and Jelena Ostapenko (with Robert Farah) both are still disputed.

Gauff admitted she was disappointed to be beaten in singles early in her youth career at the All England Club in the third round, but said the loss made her focus more on mixed doubles.

“For now, my hope is to do well, as best as I can, in the mix,” Gauff said. “[And] don’t let Jack down on that part. “

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