Caroline Garcia, 28, defeats Coco Gauff at US Open to reach first Grand Slam semifinal; meets Ons Jabeur next

NEW YORK — Caroline Garcia never really let go Coco Gauff – or the crowd – get all mixed up in their US Open quarterfinals on Tuesday night.

From the start, Garcia played high-stakes tennis, placing shots where she wanted, sometimes right in front of Gauff’s feet, sometimes well out of reach. In contrast to the early successes experienced by Gauff at just 18, it has been a long road for Garcia, who at the age of 28 is now eligible to play in the first Grand Slam semi-final of her career.

17-seeded Garcia took charge from the start and never relented in a 6-3, 6-4 win over 12-seeded Gauff at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I just take my shots,” Garcia said, “even when I’m stressed.”

She had lost her two previous matches against Gauff, who was runner-up at the French Open in June but was by far the better player this time.

“Their level was great and I knew coming in was going to be great and I feel like I didn’t play at the level I needed to come out with the win today – but overall I’m very proud of me this tournament,” said Gauff. “But I’m hungry for more, so maybe next year.”

Garcia, who hails from France, has yet to concede a set at Flushing Meadows this year and extended her winning streak to 13 games total, cementing her status as someone who is currently playing as well as anyone in women’s tennis.

She finished last season at No. 74 but is expected to move into the top 10 next week.

“In the last few months,” Garcia said, “I’ve been feeling healthy again.”

She meets second place at Wimbledon Ons Jabeur of Tunisia on Thursday with a place in the final at stake.

“I’m looking forward to the next challenge and what I can achieve,” said Garcia.

Jabeur became the first woman to represent an African nation to make it to the semifinals of the US Open during the professional era with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over the batting player Serena Williams in the third round, Ajla Tomljanovic.

Jabeur said her run to the All England Club title shot allowed her to “believe in myself more” and realize “I had it in me that I could win a Grand Slam”.

Tomljanovic exchanged a long hug at the net with Jabeur, who is a close friend, after the game.

“I’m just trying to do my job and hopefully inspire more and more generations from Africa,” Jabeur said. “It really means a lot to me.”

In the Garcia vs. Gauff game it was 4-0 after just 17 minutes, with spectators still pouring in. Overall, there was less vocal support for Gauff than in their previous win at Ashe.

During that pretty perfect start, Garcia topped a 17-stroke exchange with a down-the-line forehand winner. She raised a fist and held the pose while looking down at her guest box where her father and trainer were on their feet. It was a sequence that would be repeated.

Both are big servers: Gauff was the fastest hit by a woman in the tournament this year at 200 km/h; Garcia leads the WTA in 2022 with aces. Each turned in one at 117 mph in their opening game.

But it was Garcia who read Gauff’s offers much more effectively. Garcia often returned low enough to seemingly startle Gauff, who rushed some responses. After one of several attempts by Gauff to reply was caught in the net, she put her racquet to the ground as if to imply, “Why do they always end up right there?!”

That kind of constant pressure and Garcia’s tendency to stay well inside the baseline for second serves may have contributed to Gauff’s six double faults.

Garcia also quickly gained the upper hand with her clean, crisp shots from the baseline. During a short TV interview on the way from the dressing room to court, Garcia said she hoped to be “more aggressive”.

It definitely was her.

Alluding to her volley expertise – something she has displayed in doubles, where she has won two Grand Slam titles with a French partner Kristina Mladenovic — Garcia moved forward whenever an opening presented itself. In the end, she won 13 points out of 16 when she went to the net.

Instead of fearing Gauff’s stronger backhand and trying to stay away from her, Garcia went after her and repeatedly drew errors.

“I had a lot of unforced errors today. I think I had a couple of balls where I could have finished the point, especially when she came to the net – I missed a lot of pass shots when they were open,” Gauff said. “I think I just have to take a step back [the unforced errors]especially when you’re playing against an aggressive player like Caroline – you can’t make that many unforced mistakes.”

Gauff occasionally showed a bit of frustration with her game, slapping her thigh or banging her racquet on a pitchside towel rack. She was attempting to become the youngest American to reach the semifinals of the US Open since Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam title in New York in 1999 at the age of 17.

Garcia wouldn’t allow it.

The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.