Teenager Coco Gauff’s rise on the red clay continues. With an efficient and deeply impressive performance at Roland Garros, the 17-year-old American produced one of the best big match showings of her young career, smothering Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-1 in just 53 minutes to reach her first grand slam quarter-final.
Gauff had arrived in Paris in some of her best form to date and prime for a breakthrough with the correct draw. After reaching her first WTA 1000 semi-final in Rome last month, albeit with help from the retirement of Ashleigh Barty during their match, she won her second WTA title a week before the French Open in Parma. Her win-loss record over the clay season now stands at 16-3 (84%) and counting.
One of the notable aspects of Gauff’s early success was how much it owed much to her grit and mental strength. In her 2019 runs at Wimbledon and the US Open she survived numerous tight, scrappy three-set matches. The quality of those encounters was often inconsistent but she demonstrated her rare toughness and an ability to constantly eke out victories when far from her best.
However, with more experience and maturity under her belt, Gauff’s game is blossoming and she is beginning to show exactly what her game could look like at its best. Against Jabeur, the 25th seed, she produced quality tennis from the beginning. Gauff, seeded 24th, served brilliantly, losing just 9 points on her serve in the entire match, and after her recent serving issues she served zero double faults in one of the biggest matches of her career.
While Jabeur’s level folded under the pressure and her performance was a disappointment considering her own talent and recent success, Gauff constantly pressured Jabeur with her backhand, the dominant shot of the match, and she showed her sharp court sense by relentlessly closing down the net. She finished with 13 of 17 net points won.
“Super happy that I was able to reach my first quarterfinal. I played really well so I’m happy about that,” said Gauff in her on-court interview. “Parma gave me a lot of confidence, especially on the clay. It was my first title on the clay. Coming here, it gave me a lot of confidence and taught me a lot [about] how to close matches and deal with the pressure on important points.”
Gauff will face Czech Barbora Krejcikova, the world No 33, in the quarter-final, who halted the revival of Sloane Stephens with a thorough 6-2, 6-0 win to also reach her first grand slam singles quarter-final. Krejcikova is a former doubles world number one and five-time grand slam champion in women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Her singles rise has unusually come after success in doubles but her own rise up the ranking continues.
Krejcikova’s victory over Stephens’ signified more positive news for Gauff since it officially took Stephens out of running from the Team USA Olympic squad, which is decided with the rankings after this week. Despite being a long way out of the Olympic race at the start of the year, Gauff has come from behind to clinch the fourth and final Olympic spot for Team USA.