The 15-year-old American had captured attention worldwide with three wins at her first Grand Slam tournament.
We were there for Coco Gauff's first Wimbledon, which ended this week with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat to Simona Halep.
We were there by the thousands on No. 1 Court and Centre Court, surprised and impressed that a 15-year-old was able to overpower but also outsmart her elders.
We were there by the millions in front of screens of all sizes, including the big one on Henman Hill at the All England Club where a capacity crowd gathered on the grass again to cheer as the youngster faced Halep, a former No. 1.
"No more room on the hill!" shouted a security guard.
You could argue that tennis and sports in general make far too much of precocity, and you would have a point. At times it all feels like a futures market with the focus on potential instead of actual achievement.
Rushing and projecting ahead seems to occupy more of our intellectual energy than lingering and analysing the present.
Gauff was catnip at Wimbledon, emerging at a moment when the women's game is in fascinating flux and Serena Williams, at 37, is much closer to the end than the beginning as she takes aim at a 24th Grand Slam singles title.
It is more understandable than usual to wonder what comes next. But Gauff achieved plenty right here in the moment at her first Grand Slam singles tournament. She won three matches in qualifying and three matches in the main draw to become the youngest player since Jennifer Capriati in 1991 to reach the fourth round.
"I learned how to play in front of a big crowd," she said. "I learned what it was like to be under pressure. I learned a lot, and I'm really thankful for this experience."
But the seventh-seeded Halep was a big step up from Gauff's Week 1 opposition. She's a top-10 player still in her prime and riding high again after a strong start at Wimbledon. She is feeling much less pressure than she did when she was unsuccessfully defending her French Open title last month in Paris.
"More confident," Halep said. "I feel better mentally. I'm not tired anymore. I've been a little tired at the beginning of the year. I'm fresh, emotionally. I started to feel hungry for the results. Every match, I want to win it badly."
Gauff had nearly twice as many unforced errors as winners (29 to 15). She lost the majority of the extended rallies, something she didn't do in her earlier matches at Wimbledon. She seemed too eager at crunchtime in both sets to try to end rallies too soon, perhaps because she appeared to be suffering physically and sought treatment during a second-set changeover for stomach discomfort.
"I wasn't feeling 100 per cent today; I still tried my best," said Gauff, adding that she was still unclear what her medical problem was. "Simona played really well."
It is not a coincidence that no qualifier, man or woman, has won a Grand Slam singles title. Despite the lopsided score line, Gauff did test Halep's renewed resolve. Halep, at her best, is a supreme counterpuncher, and yet Gauff still managed to end rallies with haymakers, eliciting gasps from the crowd with several backhand winners down the line.
But it was the more subtle things that gave tennis cognoscenti goose bumps. Gauff does not just have precocious power. She has uncommon court sense for a player of any age, a grasp of when to attack, when to defend and when to improvise.
Unlike many of the prodigies and women's champions of the past 25 years, she also has no fear of coming to net when the points matter most.
"You see women who have won Grand Slams just hitting hard off both sides without really trying to hit slice or volleys and sometimes not even running all that fast," said Jean-Christophe Faurel, Gauff's new coach. "Coco can do all of that. I have rarely seen a player cover court like she does. She can hit hard off both sides, and on top of that, she has good touch. I don't see any limits."
There are certainly limits in the rule book, however. According to the WTA, Gauff will be allowed to play only seven more professional tournaments before she turns 16 on March 13. Though the Gauff family is feeling rather constrained, it is hard to imagine that the WTA is going to radically alter age-eligibility rules that were designed to protect youngsters and their teams, in part, from themselves.
"I definitely understand why the rules are there," Gauff said. "It's definitely to protect the player, but obviously I will want to play more. We'll see. I heard the rule is under review."
The review is being conducted by an independent volunteer panel. Gauff's father, Corey, has said that he does not want a "Coco Rule," but that does not mean that tweaks are not possible.
Coco's performance at Wimbledon lifted her ranking to approximately No. 140 from No. 313 and will allow her direct entry into the qualifying events at Grand Slam tournaments and the four top-level WTA Tour events, known as premier mandatory tournaments.
But unless some special dispensation is made, Gauff has reached the limit of allowable wild cards for regular tour events in her 15th year.
With a ranking well outside the top 100, she would not be able to gain direct entry into most WTA tour events and could be obliged to try and qualify, or to play in low-level professional tournaments.
That is less than ideal in light of her new star power, but not necessarily a negative for the long term, just as losing to Halep may not have been a negative for the longer term.
Cocomania could have spiked in earnest if she had pulled off another upset.
"I can see that point," Faurel said. "Now, we're going to have to be smart to manage all of this, but her family will be there to remind her, 'Hey you are nothing at all yet in tennis.'"
Staying grounded as her career takes off will indeed be key.
Asked how amazed she was to see Gauff's level on Monday, Halep could not help herself from thinking ahead either.
"It's a huge thing that she's able to play in the fourth round of Wimbledon," Halep said. "It's a great performance. I think if she keeps going, she will be top 10 soon."
Gauff's future does indeed look luminous, but so much can get in the way of a can't-miss tennis superstar: money, distractions, injuries and more.
Best to savor Wimbledon 2019 a little bit longer. We were there, but above all Gauff was there — swinging freely and thinking so clearly.
Written by: Christopher Clarey
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES