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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, May 31, 2022

 
Gauff

18-year-old Coco Gauff broke serve six times stopping Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2 to reach her first Roland Garros semifinal where she'll meet Martina Trevisan.

Photo credit: Getty

Trampolining high off the terre battue, Coco Gauff exploded in a series of kangaroo jumps on the changeover.

Even when the ball wasn’t in play, Gauff was going places today.

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A dynamic Gauff bounced 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens out of Paris 7-5, 6-2 soaring into her first Grand Slam semifinal in just her 11th career major.

The 18-year-old Gauff has not surrendered a set in five tournament wins charging into her first singles semifinal since Adelaide last January. Gauff is competing with genuine joy and relishing playing rather than solely focusing on the results.

"Going onto the court, I just try to bring my best every match. I fight for every point," Gauff told the media in Paris. "You know, if it doesn't go my way, then, you know, you gotta look at the match and figure out what I need to work on.

"I feel like a lot of my losses in the past were due to mental errors of just getting used to being on tour and getting used to playing these intense matches. I feel like now, really, mentally I'm in a great place. So I know if I do lose a match it's not going to be because of that. I'm okay, if it is because of my game, because that's something that I can work on."




Apart from a three-double fault game she won holding for a 4-1 second-set lead and a pair of back-to-back double faults she hit failing to serve out the match at 5-1, Gauff played a confident, controlled and complete match.

“I just stay composed,” Gauff told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “I mean I got a little nervous in the 5-1 game because I realized how close I was to the finish line.

“But I think that changeover I just told myself focus on the moment and the point in front of you.”

Moving with more energy and competing with more urgency, Gauff targeted Stephens’ two-handed backhand wisely throughout the match, made several outstanding gets to extend points and backed up her second serve with more belief. Gauff won 11 of 13 points played on Stephens’ second serve and converted six of 10 break points avenging a 6-4, 6-2 loss to the 2017 US Open champion in the Flushing Meadows second round last summer.



The 23-ranked Gauff will take on 59th-ranked Italian Martina Trevisan for a spot in Saturday’s final.

Earlier, Trevisan squandered a match point at 5-4 in the second set, but shrugged it off with a decisive third set defeating 17th-seeded Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3 in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

Trevisan is the first Italian to reach the semifinals since former finalist Sara Errani in 2013.




The 28-year-old Italian scored her 10th consecutive victory advancing to her first Grand Slam semifinal in her eighth major appearance. Trevisan fired 43 winners stopping the US Open finalist, who took treatment for a foot injury, to reach the final four two years after she made her maiden major quarterfinal as a qualifier in Paris.

"I like the fight. I like the adrenaline," Trevisan said. "I like the moment before I get in the court, because there was a lot of energy. So that's all things that make you alive, you know. So I like it so much."

In their lone prior meeting, a 159th-ranked Trevisan topped a 16-year-old Gauff in three tight sets, 4-6 6-2 7-5, in the 2020 Roland Garros second round played in the fall. Gauff's biggest takeaway from that match was she hit double-digit double faults, something that she can't afford in the rematch.

"Playing Trevisan, yeah, I remember that match pretty clearly," Gauff said. "I threw in a lot of double faults. I think I was in double digits with double faults. I'm not going to do that this time around.

"And also, I mean, she's a tricky player to play on clay, a tricky lefty. I watched a little bit of the match of her and Leylah. I think we're both playing free tennis and it's going to be a good match up."

Warmer weather should mean higher-bouncing conditions in the rematch which figures to favor Gauff, who has used her speed and high-bounding topspin forehand to displace opponents this French fortnight.

The 18th-seeded Gauff burst out of the blocks quickly. Running down everything Stephens hit, Gauff broke at 15 in the second game. Gauff was mixing in some short slice with her booming backhand backing up the break for 3-0 after 11 minutes.

Contesting her first major quarterfinal in three years, Stephens used her forehand to get on the board before Gauff stamped a love hold for 4-1.

Though the former French Open finalist was trying to straddle the baseline and take the ball earlier, Gauff was a half-step quicker to the ball than Stephens and willing to wage long rallies. The longest exchange of the match—a 19-shot rally—ended with Gauff ripping a backhand on the rise to hold for 5-2. Stephens knew what she was up against before even stepping out on court.

"Obviously, I've known Coco since she was about 10 years old," Stephens said. "And obviously we had the same coach and I saw her a lot, we've had a lot of interaction, I've known her for a long time.

"I think she's always had a good game. She's super athletic, she's super confident, she's a great player. And I think obviously you can see someone and look at them and watch them and tell they have whatever it takes to be a top player."

To that point, Gauff was bossing the backhand exchanges. Stephens’ forehand is a prime weapon—she can spin it deep to back up the opponent, angle it sharply off the court or flatten it down the line. Stephens showed the expansive spectrum of her forehand range ripping a winner down the line and befuddling Gauff with a high topspin drive drawing the error to break back in the ninth game.

Serving to force a tiebreaker, Stephens sprayed her 12th unforced error to fall into a love-30 hole. Gauff’s speed can be both blinding and unsettling. Stephens was in prime position at net but the teenager defended brilliant and the world No. 64 badly bungled a volley to face triple break point.

Moving with urgency, Gauff lined up her favored backhand and lasered it down the line collecting the 42-minute first set—and her court-side towel—with a firm “come on!”



Though the veteran Stephens pushed back, Gauff put her foot down winning eight of the last nine points.

The Delray Beach native was disciplined from the baseline hitting high, heavy topspin forehands down the line to Stephens’ two hander to elicit mid-court balls. The pair traded breaks to start the second set with Gauff smacking a couple of backhand drives down the line for her third break of the match.

An expansive exchange saw Gauff open the court curling a crosscourt forehand to drag Stephens wide. Gauff intercepted the reply and spun a backhand winner breaking for 3-1.



A twitchy Gauff felt the nerves dumping three double faults in the fifth game.

On break point, the Floridians came nose-to-nose at net. Stephens was in prime position for a forehand volley winner and needed only to push it past Gauff to break. Instead, Stephens shoved it long and dropped to a squat in disgust. Gauff is the superior net player and showed it knocking off a full-stretch forehand volley that helped her navigate a 10-minute hold for 4-1.

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Gauff’s only real stumble came when she got tight at closing time—understandably given the stakes—and failed to serve out match in the seventh game.

Undaunted, Gauff ran down everything flicking one final running backhand and thrusting her arms in the sky.

The final match point moment had Gauff jumping for joy, she landed lauding the power of perspective propelling the best major run of her life.

"No matter what your job or how much money you make you still are gonna be loved by other people and love on yourself," Gauff said. "And I think society focuses too much on status or whatever.

"I think we have to remember we’re all humans. We all enter the world the same way and we’ll all leave in the same way."

Gauff closed a statement win with words of encouragement writing "Dream Big" on the court-side camera.

"I think it's important that you don't put yourself into a box," Gauff said. "So I always try to tell young kids that, to dream big, and you never know when your moment is going to happen."

 

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