Dubai: American Coco Gauff is the future of women’s tennis. That has been the word in WTA circles ever since came into the scene as a precocious 14-year-old. She has been living up to expectations and came very close to winning the French Open.
Since then there has been a spate of new Grand Slam winners. Prominent among them is Iga Swiatek, who has been dominant last year, winning the French and US Open title. The Polish World No. 1 is Gauff’s nemesis, having lost all her five encounters. Gauff goes against Swiatek for a sixth time in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, after beating fellow -American Madison Keys (US) 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Will that be different?
I am proud of my returns today. Maddie is a big server, so I was surprised how many returns I was able to get into the court.
Gauff said: “All five times, I did something wrong. To be honest, she’s playing great tennis and there’s a reason she’s world No 1. Tomorrow [Friday] I have no pressure. I just have to play my game — I definitely think I’ve gotten better since the last time I played her,” she said.
“The ranking is just a number, at the end of the day. You just have to step on the court believing you can win, and that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow,” the 2021 quarter-finalist added.
on Thursday, Gauff looked assured in the first set, serving well and keeping Keys on the run. But Keys cranked up her game in the second set after losing her serve. She broke right back and kept the rallies tight. Gauff rode over a spell of inconsistency and wrapped up the set and match to book her semifinal appearance in the WTA 1000 event.
“Definitely, I am proud of my returns today. Maddie is a big server, so I was surprised how many returns I was able to get into the court. Even in the second set I missed some, but I think in the first set I returned very well,” said the 18-year-old, who was competing in her 10th quarterfinal.
I’m still not perfect. There are moments where I definitely get frantic, but I think it’s improving.
Gauff has now won her last seven matches against fellow American players and barring the lone loss to Amanda Anisimova at Wimbledon, she has won 12 of her last 13 encounters against her compatriots in the last one year. It also includes a 2-1 lead against Keys, whom Gauff also defeated in straight sets at last year’s US Open.
“This is the third time we’ve played against each other, so I think we knew what each other is like. We practised last week together in Doha, so it definitely helps. But sometimes it doesn’t help, because they know what you like to do because they play with you so much. You just have to stick to your game plan,” she added.
How Gauff tries to stay calm
Gauff, the 2022 French Open finalist, says she is working on staying calm on court and trying to incorporate more yoga sessions into her routine as the American feels there is still room for improvement.
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“I’m still not perfect. There are moments where I definitely get frantic, but I think it’s improving. I feel like that at least now in the last couple matches. I’m not trying to go on the court and not crack a reaction at all. Unless you’re like Roger [Federer], it’s quite impossible. That’s just my personality. It’s more important how fast you can reset from that reaction,” the American added.
“I try to meditate, but let me be honest, I’m terrible at it. It’s something that I’m trying to incorporate more. Right now it’s not even a weekly routine, it’s like monthly, biweekly. I’m trying to do better. I know I don’t play my best tennis when I’m not relaxed, I think it just comes from experience,” Gauff said.
1-Iga Swiatek (Poland) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE) walkover
5-Coco Gauff (US) bt Madison Keys (US) 6-2, 7-5
3-Jessica Pegula (US) bt Karolina Muchova (CZE) walkover
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) bt 2-Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 0-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1.
Veronika Kudermetova/Liudmila Samson bt Leylah Fernandes/Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 7-5
Desirae Krawczyk/Demi Schuurs bt Monica Niculescu/ Kimberley Zimmermann 6-0, 6-4
Lyudmyla Kichenok/Jelena Ostapenko (2) bt Vera Zvonareva/Zhaoxuan Yang (7) 6-7 (3), 6-2, 10-8.