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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, June 5, 2023

 
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No. 6-seeded Coco Gauff beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7-5, 6-2 to bounce into the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the third consecutive year.

Photo credit: Clive Mason/Getty

Leaping off the clay in kangaroo hops during the coin toss, Coco Gauff sent a signal of intent before she struck a shot.

Elevating early in both sets, Gauff swept Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7-5, 6-2 to bounce into the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the third consecutive year.

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"I'm really happy. I mean, today was honestly a difficult match," Gauff said. "I mean, as every match is. But the wind was something that, I don't know, I wasn't really that prepared for it going in. The one side was gusting like really crazy. Usually, like, I like to play in the wind, to be honest, but it wasn't something I was prepared for.

"Overall I'm happy with how I played."

The 2022 finalist Gauff has won 10 of her last 11 French Open matches and will meet world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in a quarterfinal rematch of the 2022 Roland Garros final, which Swiatek swept.

The top-seeded Swiatek held a 5-1 lead over 66th-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko on Court Suzanne Lenglen when Tsurenko retired due to a viral illness.

"I should probably just that say I have something like [Elena] Rybakina had, a virus or whatever it is. My body could not handle it," Tsurenko said. "I did everything possible to manage it, but unfortunately, it's a different thing just to do normal things and play tennis.

"I could not practice yesterday, and today I had a tough -- it was tough for me to warm up, but I was hoping for, you know, just starting match and maybe I would feel a little bit better.

"But, unfortunately, it was getting worse, so I had to stop because it was not the way I wanted to be on court and to play tennis for sure."

A year ago, a sharp Swiatek outclassed an 18-year-old Gauff 6-1, 6-3 to lift La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the second time in the last three years—and stretch her winning streak to 35 matches.


Today, Gauff came out zooming breaking to start both sets and generally controlled running rallies. Gauff converted six of 10 break-point chances and hit 22 winners against 22 unforced errors.

It wasn't an immaculate triumph. Gauff committed seven double faults, won only 9 of 23 second-serve points, failed to serve out the first set up 5-2 with set point and committed consecutive double faults serving out the match.

Still given the fact Gauff had not reached a quarterfinal since Indian Wells last March and the fact she shouldered the pressure of defending 2022 French Open final ranking points, the Auckland champion should be pleased with her quarterfinal return. 

The question now is: Can Gauff clean up her game and manage her sometime flaky forehand wing should she face nemesis Swiatek, who has dominated the American teenager.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek is 6-0 lifetime vs. Gauff, sweeping all 12 sets they've played while dishing out two bagels in their last six sets. 

Despite a series of thrashing at Swiatek's hands, Gauff said she's been looking forward to a rematch to evaluate her level against the best.

"Honestly, since last year I have been wanting to play her especially at this tournament," Gauff told the media at Roland Garros. "I figured that it was going to happen, because I figured I was going to do well and she was going to do well. Didn't know what side of the draw we were going to be on obviously.

"But I'm the type of mentality if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I think also if you want to improve, you have to play the best. I feel like the way my career has gone so far, if I see a level, and if I'm not quite there at that level, I know I have to improve and I feel like you don't really know what you have to improve on until you see that level."

The sixth-seeded Gauff burst out of the blocks with a love break to start today's fourth round match.

Tennis Express

The Gauff forehand, generated by an elaborate backswing, has been a focus of this French Open. Gauff spun a topspin forehand down the line wrapping a firm hold for 4-2.

Afterward, Gauff said her forehand is a work in progress, but knowing opponents will target that wing has helped her prepare for that stroke.

"It's something that I need to improve. That's for sure," Gauff said. "But this week, in the last couple matches, my forehand has I think improved a lot, and I think it's gotten me to win a lot of points.

"Also, I mean, a lot of people play that side. I think the last couple of matches that I have just become more and more comfortable being aggressive on it. But I think really it's more so something that I just have to continue to improve. I'll probably work on it more during the offseason, but right now I'm happy where my forehand is at."

The sixth seed's speed around the court shrunk Schmiedlova's ability to find openings. Gauff exacerbated that issue by stepping inside the baseline, banging her backhand on the raise and sometimes firing her forehand down the line.

Wobbling on serve, Schmiedlova fought off four break points in the seventh game. Gauff jammed a diagonal return then drew a floated forehand to break again for 5-2.

Serving for the set, Gauff earned a set point, but could not close. Gauff struggled to land first serves and Schmiedlova made her pay pumping a forehand winner to break back in the eighth game.

Emboldened by the set point save, Schmiedlova held at 15 closing the gap to 4-5.

Serving for the set again, Gauff double faulted into net to face break point. The ensuing 20-shot rally saw Gauff leave several forehands short in the court landing near the service line and Schmiedlova drew the forehand error to break back and level after 10 games.

Playing a heavy, high topspin forehand to push Schmiedlova back, Gauff flattened a forehand winner for a break point. Hitting with more depth the French Open finalist forced the error, breaking back to edge ahead 6-5. 




Landing a flurry of first serves, Gauff gained triple set point. This time, she made no mistake banging a backhand winner down the line to collect a 50-minute opening set that saw the American withstand that slight slide.

The pair exchanged breaks to start the second set.

Scattering a crosscourt backhand wide, Schmiedlova ceded the break anda  3-2 lead to Gauff.

Explosiveness distinguished Gauff in this match. When she was stepping into the court hitting her backhand with venom, Gauff was blowing open points with demolition expert efficiency at times. Zapping a diagonal backhand, Gauff broke for 5-2.

Despite successive double faults that put her in a double break point bind, Gauff tamed the turbulence and served out her 10th win in her last 11 Roland Garros matches in 91 minutes.


 

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