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Second Serve - A Tennis Now Blog

Second Serve


11 double faults? Not good. 15 in the previous round? Ugh. Nine in her opening round victory over Magdalena Frech – in straight sets – and 13 in her round of 16 loss to Madison Keys at Madrid. That’s 48 double faults in Coco Gauff’s last four matches.

Worrying, but the news isn’t all bad for the 20-year-old American.

Tennis Express

The fact that Gauff, who improved to 6-2 on clay with her 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 win over Paula Badosa in Rome on Monday, is winning the majority of her matches, bodes well for the American. Imagine if she starts serving like she knows she can?

“I've been working on it,” Gauff told reporters, of her rogue serve. “I think today, even though the double-faults were there, I think it was still a better performance than it was last night.”

The double faults aren’t the only problem for Coco. She’s also missing the mark with her first serve as well.

Gauff made just 38 percent of her first serves across the win over Badosa, but did win 29 of 38 (76 percent) of those points. Despite the high double-fault count, she won 28 of 62 second serve points (28 of 51 non double-fault points) to keep Badosa at bay.

How do we quantify such a weird cluster of statistical data points? Let’s just say Coco’s serve is… a work in progress?

The World No.3 says she is putting more emphasis on bringing the heat on the first serve – something that she believes will pay dividends – once she starts making more.

“I think for me the focus will be getting more first serves in,” Gauff continued. “I think my first-serve percentage was low, but my win percentage was in the high 70s or something like that.

“I'm going big on the first serve, so I know I'm probably going to miss more. I think it's just finding the balance of going big but also knowing when to slow down the pace just to get the serve in.”

It may seem like a strange time to be experimenting, but let us keep in mind that Gauff has become the master of winning ugly of late. She won her maiden US Open title last year by rallying from a set down in the final. In total, Gauff played four three-setters in New York and didn’t flinch under pressure, even when her game was discombobulated.

When it comes to the serve, 20-year-old Gauff is taking the long view.

“I bet on myself to continue to go big,” she said. “I know when I go big and my serve goes in, it's dangerous. Even though I want to win this tournament, I'm trying to think long-term. I don't want to lose the 120 serve by not going for it.”

Don’t Worry about the Return Gauff’s struggles on serve have been abated by the success she is having on return this season. The American entered the week leading the WTA Tour in return games won (minumum 10 matches), securing 50.5 percent of her return games. Gauff sits second in second-serve return points won, having won 61.8 percent of such points prior to Rome.

Today she earned 16 break points against Basosa and broke seven times from her 12 return games.

“Returns were something I was working on a lot because my [returns in play] percentage honestly used to be really bad, like a couple years ago,” Gauff said on Monday in Rome. “That's why it makes me optimistic about other parts of my game. It's not the first time I've been in a tough spot stats-wise in an area.

“I definitely think it gives me confidence to improve. I feel confidence in the way I work. I spent a lot of time just working on different parts of my game. I feel like it's in the right direction and I'm working hard. I think if you work hard, you'll get the results.”

Gauff will face China’s Zheng Qinwen in the quarterfinals at Rome. The pair have never met on the WTA Tour, but Gauff did manage a win over Zheng in the juniors. Back in 2018 the then 14-year-old won the Orange Bowl girls’ 18s singles title, defeating Zheng, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, to become the youngest Orange Bowl Girls’ 18s singles champion since 2003.