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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, September 4 2022

 
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Coco Gauff defeated Zhang Shuai, 7-5, 7-5, to reach her first US Open quarterfinal where she will play red-hot Caroline Garcia. 

Photo credit: Getty

NEW YORK—Beneath the closed Arthur Ashe Stadium roof, Coco Gauff showed there is no ceiling to her pulsating all-court skills.

Roland Garros runner-up Gauff repelled Zhang Shuai 7-5, 7-5, advancing to her first career US Open quarterfinal.

Gauff: I Always Root for Kyrgios

The 12th-seeded Gauff broke in the 11th game of both sets before serving out her first trip to the Flushing Meadows last eight.

The 18-year-old Gauff set up a quarterfinal clash vs. Cincinnati champion Caroline Garcia.

"She's obviously a great player, even though she's had ups and downs," Gauff said of Garcia. "I think right now she's playing probably the best tennis. I think she's playing the best tennis she's played in a long time.

"It's going to be a challenge. When you play these players that are hot, I think it's more of a mental challenge. You just got to accept she's going to hit some great shots, because I know she will."


Gauff knows she must show both acceptance and aggression against Garcia.

"I think my mentality has been great. I played I feel like two similar opponents, Maddie Keys, who can hit some unbelievable shots from the wings" Gauff said. "Same with Shuai today. She was hitting some great shots. I think I was doing a good job of accepting it, clapping my hands, moving on to the next point. I think I'm going to have to do that for the next match."

On adjacent Louis Armstrong Court, a streaking Garcia rolled through eight of the final nine games dismissing Alison Riske 6-4, 6-1 reaching her maiden US Open quarterfinal.

It is Garcia's 12th consecutive victory and at WTA-best 29th win since Wimbledon.

"I'm so excited to be in the quarters in the US Open," Garcia told Blair Henley in her on-court interview afterard. "It's a great couple of weeks for me.

"I'm trying to play aggressive and go for my shots even when I'm tight or even when I don't feel it. It's how I improved so much the last couple of months and I really enoy playing like that, moving forward, and I'm having fun yeah."


Two-time Roland Garros doubles champion Garcia dictated play with her serve and forehand combination. After finishing her serve motion, Garcia frequently side-stepped a few feet to unload her heavy forehand.

Formidable first-strike tennis saw Garcia smack 16 forehand winners compared to one for Riske, who struggled to take that stroke down the line in the face of Garcia's formidable attack.

Former world No. 4 Garcia will try to sustain this roll—and reach her first career singles semifinal. Gauff has beaten Garcia in both prior meetings, including a 6-2, 7-6(3) victory in Doha earlier this year.

This is a different Garcia than the player who slipped to No. 79 in the ranking earlier this summer. Garcia is cracking her serve with supreme confidence—she leads the WTA Tour in aces with 312 on the season—and she's adopted uber-aggressive court positioning on return sometimes standing four free inside the baseline to return.

Garcia was sometimes four free inside the baseline to confront the American's second serve. Garcia rushed Riske into errors, battered her forehand into submission and came up clutch on serve saving all four break points she faced in a routine one hour, 22-minute sweep.

Arthur Ashe Stadium fans were screaming support for Gauff, who played the big points better than Zhang today. Gauff saved six of nine break points and broke serve five times.

Gauff broke at love on a Zhang forehand error to snatch a 6-5 second-set lead and incite a sustained cheer of "Let's Go Coco!" from the Arthur Ashe Stadium faithful.

The Gauff-Garcia match pits the Garcia forehand against Gauff's dynamic two-handed backhand. Both women are extremely athletic, both can blast the ball on the run and both know their way around net. Gauff is world No. 1 in doubles, while Garcia is a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion.

"I'm super excited actually to play Coco in U.S., in New York, quarterfinal of slam, it's great," Garcia said. "She already have some experience with the final in Roland Garros. She's a tough player, doing really good this year, very consistent, still very young.

"But, yeah, it's a great match to play, quarterfinal of a slam is a battle, is a challenge, and I will get myself ready for it."

 

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