The Washington Post

Gauff is all business, topping Keys to reach fourth round

- BY AVA WALLACE

new york — Of all the American power hitters to follow in Serena Williams’s wake, Madison Keys may be the strongest of the group. A tennis ball off her racket might be able to crack rocks.

Coco Gauff matched Keys’s might with cool confidence Friday, making a meeting of two Grand Slam finalists look lopsided as she zipped into the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career. She did it with a 6-2, 6-3 win that took a businessli­ke 72 minutes.

The U.S. Open was the only major in which Gauff, 18, had failed to make at least the fourth round. But rather than feeling like a milestone, her victory felt routine.

Gauff entered the match with one main focal point following a three-set loss to Keys in January: be less hesitant in her shots to match Keys’s aggression.

It was a strategy that was easier to follow than Gauff expected. Her overall confidence in her tennis is higher than it was at the start of the year following a coaching change and what she said is a crisper sense of identity on court.

“In January I was relying too much on my speed. Because against lower-ranked players, I could get away with just getting the ball back. Playing higher players, power hitters, I’m like, okay, that’s not working anymore,” Gauff said. “. . . It really changed my mentality on how I’m using my athleticis­m. I’m not relying on it anymore. Now I’m trying to use it as a weapon.”

Gauff played freely Friday, going for big groundstro­kes but staying within her game.

A solid seven winners to 14 unforced errors was plenty against an opponent with a penchant for getting herself into trouble. The difference was that Keys wasn’t as clean — she had 13 winners to 22 unforced errors and couldn’t find a way to break Gauff ’s impenetrab­le calm.

Gauff also limited herself to three double faults after serving eight in her second-round match.

She advances to face China’s Shuai Zhang on Sunday.

Keys, who lost to Sloane Stephens in the championsh­ip match here in 2017, hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final since (though she has reached a semifinal three times, including at this year’s Australian Open). She hasn’t made it past the fourth round in New York since 2019.

Gauff reached her first major final this year at Roland Garros, where she fell to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

The most impactful thing to have come from that match for Gauff is that she now knows what it feels like to play for a Grand Slam trophy.

“I didn’t expect myself to be so nervous before the final. Now that I know what to expect, I expect myself to at least do better, maybe not win next time, but do better,” Gauff said. “. . . Instead of trying to say, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m not this,’ I’m saying, ‘I am nervous, I do feel pressure, I do feel this.’ Now once you acknowledg­e a problem, you can solve it.”

Gauff showed it Friday — she’s a quick learner.

Murray ousted by Berrettini

Andy Murray’s latest Week 1 exit at a Grand Slam tournament did not discourage him. The threetime major champion still thinks he can go toe-to-toe with the best in men’s tennis — even after two hip operations, even as the years without a trip past the third round at any of the sport’s biggest events stretch on.

After bowing out at that stage with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-1), 6-3 loss across more than 3 1/2 hours against

2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini of Italy, Murray chose to look on the bright side.

“I’ve got a metal hip. It’s not easy playing with that. It’s really difficult. I’m surprised I’m still able to compete with guys that are right up at the top of the game,” the 35-year-old Murray said. “Matches like this, I’m really proud that I have worked myself into a position where I’m able to do that.”

The 13th-seeded Berrettini advanced to face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Sunday by hitting more aces than the unseeded Murray (18-5), delivering far more total winners (55-24) and accumulati­ng 15 break points, converting five, while facing only four.

Elsewhere in the men’s bracket, French Open runner-up Casper Ruud edged 29th-seeded Tommy Paul in five sets, while No. 27 Karen Khachanov moved on when his opponent, Jack Draper, stopped playing in the third set because of an injured hamstring.

Defending men’s champion Daniil Medvedev was scheduled to face Wu Yibing of China in Ashe to close the night.

On the women’s side during the day session, Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur came back to defeat No. 31 seed Shelby Rogers, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, and avoid the sort of early exit by a high-seeded woman that has filled the first week of play at the year’s last major. No. 2 Anett Kontaveit, No. 3 Maria Sakkari and No. 4 Paula Badosa are already gone, as are 2021 champion Emma Raducanu and 2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

Jabeur reached the fourth round in New York for the first time after going 0-3 in the third round since 2019.

“Finally,” Jabeur said. “I know that I don’t play the best on hard courts, but it’s always amazing to see how I’m improving, how I’m pushing my limits.”

She next plays No. 18 Veronika Kudermetov­a, who needed just 47 minutes to overwhelm Dalma Galfi, 6-2, 6-0.

In the night session, Caroline Garcia knocked out 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu, 6-3, 6-2, to move into the fourth round.

Berrettini dominated in just about every statistica­l way at Arthur Ashe Stadium but had positive things to say of Murray.

“His level seems very high right now. He’s super intelligen­t. . . . He made me sweat a lot,” Berrettini said.

 ?? TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES ?? Coco Gauff committed just three double faults and 14 unforced errors in her 6-2, 6-3 triumph over fellow American Madison Keys.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES Coco Gauff committed just three double faults and 14 unforced errors in her 6-2, 6-3 triumph over fellow American Madison Keys.

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