American teenager Coco Gauff has made it through to the US Open quarter-finals after defeating China’s Zhang Shuai; the 18-year-old set up a meeting with Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, who won the Cincinnati Open just before Flushing Meadows
Monday 5 September 2022 00:59, UK
Great American hope Coco Gauff has made it through to the US Open quarter-finals where the teenager will take on in-form Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.
Gauff came through against China’s Zhang Shuai with a 7-5 7-5 triumph in just under two hours to set up a clash against Garcia, who continued her red-hot form with a crushing 6-4 6-1 win over American 29th seed Alison Riske-Amritraj.
Gauff has already made her first Grand Slam final this year at the French Open and it would be an irresistible narrative if she could win her first title in the tournament where Serena Williams bowed out.
There is still a long way to go, of course, but Gauff is yet to drop a set and showed her competitive maturity in a tough battle with Zhang, winning the final four games and saving a set point.
“It feels insane,” Gauff said. “I mean, Ashe Stadium chanting my name, I was trying not to smile on the bench on the last changeover, I was trying to stay in the moment. But in my head I was smiling.
“I can’t believe you guys were chanting like that. It’s crazy.”
In a battle between the youngest player left in the draw, 18-year-old Gauff, and the oldest, 33-year-old Zhang, it was the Chinese player who looked sharper in the early stages, breaking for a 2-0 lead in the first set.
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But 12th seed Gauff battled back and fired a stunning backhand winner to claim the first set in front of an electrifying crowd.
Zhang, a human backboard content to extend rallies from the baseline, grabbed a 5-3 lead in the second set when she broke Gauff.
But Gauff broke back to take a 6-5 lead and won the point of the match with her astonishing speed when she slid from corner to corner to elicit the error from Zhang at the net.
The crowd roared in approval while Zhang covered her ears to block out the sound, which was amplified by the closed roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium due to rain.
Gauff sealed the affair on an error by Zhang before the pair exchanged a warm hug at the net.
Next up is Garcia, famously hailed as a future world No 1 by Andy Murray more than a decade ago, but she has struggled under the weight of expectation and began the season ranked 74.
She is now up to 17 after a brilliant summer that included a run to the fourth round of Wimbledon, beating Emma Raducanu on the way, and three titles, most recently at the prestigious WTA event in Cincinnati.
“I don’t feel the same person that I was five years ago,” said the 17th seed, who is on a 12-match winning streak. “Obviously I learned a lot. I got some tough years in there. I got some experience. We have been working hard to come back to the top level. I’m really glad to be at this level again. Really enjoying it.”
Happiness appears to have been key to Garcia’s revival and she was able to laugh at missing four match points in a long final game on Sunday.
“To get wins, it definitely helps to be happy, to know which way you have to play, to be healthy,” she said.
“I see, and with my team we are seeing so many things we can still improve, so it gives us purpose to keep improving, to keep working hard. It’s a challenge every day, and it’s a reward to be here today, and I’m grateful for all the hard work we did.
“I like to play tennis aggressive, to move forward. I’m having fun, enjoying playing that way and, on top of it, I’m glad it’s working and it’s a good way for me.”
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