Coco Gauff eliminated in the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros

PARIS – It was the first Grand Slam singles quarter-final match for Coco Gauff and Barbora Krejcikova and, frankly, it shows.

There were tight groundstrokes into the net, errant serve pitches and double faults, openings that remained closed and quick setbacks of fortune.

To sum up, there was tension in the sun as the fans – remember that? – shouted “Come on Coco!” in the Philippe Chatrier court of the highest level, finally open to Roland-Garros spectators this year.

Gauff, the 17-year-old American, received the majority of support, but she didn’t quite manage to give the Roland Garros crowd what they wanted. After failing to convert five set points in the first set, 24th seed Gauff lost to non-seeded Krejcikova 7-6 (6), 6-3.

“I’m obviously disappointed that I couldn’t complete the first set,” Gauff said afterwards, struggling to stay calm in a post-match press conference. “To be honest, that’s in the past. It’s already arrived. After the game, Enzo, my hitting partner, told me that this game would probably make me a champion in the future. I really believe it. “

Enzo Wallart, a Frenchman, may be right, but what is clear is that there will be a new Roland-Garros champion in women’s singles this year. It may have been the most surprising edition of the women’s tournament at Roland Garros, and the trend only picked up when Maria Sakkari upset number one Iga Swiatek. 8 seeds and the defending champion, 6-4, 6-4 in Wednesday’s second quarterfinal.

Sakkari, a muscular 25 year old Greek who is the highest seed remaining at n. 17 years old, was already a threat to the best. She beat Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka on hard courts last year. But Sakkari, who has only one title on the circuit, makes her first round after the knockout stages of a Grand Slam tournament and she did so by beating the two finalists at Roland Garros of the year. last, including the American Sofia Kenin in the fourth round.

“I have people around me who tell me this was going to happen,” she said. “I was impatient, telling them, ‘When? ” and when?’ and when?’ “

Greece, not a traditional tennis superpower, looks as strong as the Acropolis, as Sakkari’s friend and compatriot Stefanos Tsitsipas will play in the men’s semi-final. Sakkari joined him with a powerful performance against Swiatek, the 20-year-old Pole who hadn’t lost a set at Roland Garros in singles since 2019.

Swiatek’s heavy forehand, the key to his clay court success, had some hiccups on Wednesday, but it was also because Sakkari was so quick to block.

“It surprised me that she played so much on my forehand, but I made a few mistakes at the start,” said Swiatek. “And she just learned a lesson from that.”

For the first time in the Open era, the last four players in the women’s singles at Roland Garros are all Grand Slam semi-finalists for the first time. This also happened at the 1978 Australian Open, which had a weak field and was won by Australian Chris O’Neil, ranked just 111.

On Thursday, Sakkari will face Krejcikova and No. 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will take on Tamara Zidansek, a 23-year-old ranked 85th on the tour.

Gauff, who was the last American remaining in singles, finished with 25 winners, 41 unforced errors and a mutilated racket after angrily destroying him with three quick hits to red clay after double faulting for falling behind. of 4-0 in the final together.

It was a disconcerting day for Gauff, who was brilliant at times, hitting winners from the backhand and turning defense into offense, but off target for the others. After Krejcikova saved five set points, the last three with groundstroke winners, Gauff’s off-road play fell apart.

At one point in the second set, she lost 15 consecutive points. 2018 Roland Garros doubles champion Krejcikova has started to assert herself as a singles player and has a wide range of shots as well as basic power when summoning her.

But Krejcikova also struggled with her nerves and service on Wednesday. She was open this week about her efforts to deal with the mental strain of going deep during a major tournament.

She said the pandemic had helped her put tennis into perspective in general: “I go and play tennis and lose, but there are actually people who lose their lives.” But ahead of her fourth-round match with Sloane Stephens, she said she had locked herself in a room at Roland Garros, crying and fearful of embarrassing herself with an unbalanced loss.

She said that she and her psychologist had had a long discussion. “She said to me, ‘If you can get over that, what you’re feeling right now, it’s going to be a huge win, and it doesn’t matter if you’re going to win on the pitch or lose on the pitch, because it’s okay. be a personal victory. ‘”

It turned out to be a win-win as she played a brilliant game, skillfully mixing her tricks and tactics to defeat Stephens, just as Gauff played her best game of the tournament when she beat the 25th seed. Ons Jabeur in the fourth round without a double fault.

But Gauff double faulted near the opening point of the game on Wednesday and finished with seven, often catching his service throws. Despite a 5-0 delay in the second set, she did not go through the stages. She continued to fight, hold the serve and with the crowd behind her, saving three match points to break Krejcikova’s serve in the next game, then registering two more match points as she held the serve close. of 5-3.

Credit …Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Krejcikova held on in the next match and when Gauff missed her final forehand she became the second unranked player to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros this year after Zidansek.

“This one will be on my mind for a few days, that’s for sure,” Gauff said. “I think come to think of it, you know it’s over, so I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, if I did this, if I did that. I think at the time I made what I thought was the best decision and I have to stick to it. “

Gauff will start preparing for Wimbledon, which begins on June 28. It was there that she rose to prominence in 2019 at age 15, beating Venus Williams in her first Grand Slam singles match.

Its progress since then has been steady rather than meteoric. There will be more to learn from Wednesday’s setback. But it was a positive clay court season and tournament for the engaging teenager. She reached the semi-finals of the Italian Open in Rome and won the singles and doubles titles in Parma. She was seeded in a major tournament for the first time and won four matches in Paris without losing a set.

“His time will come,” said Krejcikova, who, at 25, knows a lot about patience.

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