The Washington Post

Garcia snuffs out Gauff’s run at Open

- BY AVA WALLACE

NEW YORK — There was nothing the teenager could do to knock Caroline Garcia a toe off-kilter, no decibel the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium could reach that would crack her focus. Coco Gauff had the speed, the swagger and even, after an educationa­l run to the French Open final in May, some experience enduring the pressure of a Grand Slam quarterfin­al. But Garcia was a brick wall, and Gauff couldn't topple her.

Garcia, an ultra-aggressive Frenchwoma­n ranked No. 17 in the world, extended a staggering, summer-long run to beat Gauff, 6-3, 6-4, in the first appearance in a U.S. Open quarterfin­al for both players Tuesday night.

Gauff, 18, had electrifie­d crowds here in Serena Williams’s absence, showing off a newly refined mental game and a sense of maturity despite being the youngest American quarterfin­alist since 17-year-old Melanie Oudin in 2009.

She never was able to find her footing Tuesday.

Garcia has blazed through 2022 to log one of the best seasons on the WTA tour. She arrived at Arthur Ashe Stadium having won 17 of her past 18 matches and 29 in all since Wimbledon, the most in women’s tennis in that span.

Last month she was the first champion in the history of the Western & Southern Open, a significan­t hard-court tournament outside Cincinnati ahead of the U.S. Open, to win after coming through qualifying, knocking

off three top-10 players along the way. She also picked up the French Open doubles title in addition to three WTA singles crowns this year.

Yet Tuesday was just the 28-year-old’s second time playing in the quarterfin­als in 42 Grand Slam singles appearance­s in her career.

In her first career major semifinal, she will face Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovi­c in straight sets Tuesday. It’ll give her the chance to show Flushing Meadows more of her spirited play — big, pinpoint hitting and lightning-quick reflexes.

“I’m just trying to focus on my game, what I like to do, how is the best way for me to play tennis,” Garcia said. “The path is very clear right now.”

Gauff has no reason to hang her head at the close of a solid year in the majors; she lost the French Open final to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and reached the third round at Wimbledon. She will make her top-10 debut when new rankings come out following the U.S. Open and last month became the second-youngest doubles No. 1 after Martina Hingis.

At 18, this marked the first year in which Gauff was not limited in how many WTA tournament­s she could play because of the organizati­on’s age rule. She’s still figuring out things like time management at Grand Slams and getting back to her hotel quickly without dawdling on-site or agreeing to too many off-court obligation­s.

“For me it’s hard to balance being proud and being disappoint­ed. So I think I’m learning more to not be so much disappoint­ed in myself. Really, I’m just proud of how I was able to come through this week. . . . I didn’t tell anyone, but I didn’t think it was going to be that good of a tournament for me,” Gauff said, referencin­g the fact that she retired from an opening-round match in the prior tournament with a minor lower-leg injury.

“I think it was good I was able to bounce back. I really proved to myself mentally that I can come out of these tough situations and do it.”

Gauff said she gained a sharper sense of identity on court this year and a stronger mental game after reaching her first major final. She surprised herself with how nervous she became before playing Swiatek and vowed to approach big matches differentl­y — by embracing nervousnes­s so she can tackle it head on.

After every U.S. Open match, she went straight back out to the practice court.

“It’s really to re-create the feeling,” Gauff said earlier this week. “It’s been helping. You can practice for hours on the court, but probably the closest you can get to the feeling of the match is right after. I think in the long run it’s going to help me.”

Gauff barely had a chance to feel nerves or any other emotion. Garcia pounced from the start.

Garcia’s opponents face a blitz on every point. She stands right inside the baseline to rip returns before her opponents are ready and pulled Gauff from side to side to get her running on the first points of the match. She had her on her heels, often literally, from then on — no easy task against an athlete as fast and as deft as Gauff.

Multiple times, Garcia’s groundstro­kes came so fast and low at Gauff ’s toes that Gauff, just to have a chance to get her racket on the ball, had to crouch so low that her knees nearly touched the court. She brushed grit from the concrete off her legs at one point near the end of the first set.

“It was all her,” Gauff said. “I mean, today, the warmup, I had probably one of the best warmups I had this tournament. I was striking the ball really clean.”

When Gauff did have the chance to set up points, her serve was too inconsiste­nt to establish any offensive positions. She served four double faults in the first set as Garcia was totally at ease, winning 78 percent of her first-serve points and losing just one of 10 service games.

Gauff made it to 4-5, 30-30 in the second set but slung a forehand into the net to give Garcia match point. Another backhand into the net from Gauff tied things off after 97 minutes — which, to Gauff ’s credit, was the longest match Garcia has played all tournament.

 ?? Mike Segar/reuters ?? Coco Gauff had no answer for the steady play of France’s Caroline Garcia, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in straight sets.
Mike Segar/reuters Coco Gauff had no answer for the steady play of France’s Caroline Garcia, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in straight sets.
 ?? Mike SEGAR/REUTERS ?? Coco Gauff fell, 6-3, 6-4, to Caroline Garcia of France in the quarterfin­als Tuesday.
Mike SEGAR/REUTERS Coco Gauff fell, 6-3, 6-4, to Caroline Garcia of France in the quarterfin­als Tuesday.

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