New York | Garcia stops Gauff to reach first Grand Slam semi-final

Caroline Garcia’s joy at reaching the semi-finals of the US Open was apparent after she stunned home hope Coco Gauff, 6-3 6-4, in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd on Tuesday night.

I always played very aggressive and the last couple of months I feel healthy again and I've been able to move and practice the way I want. I don't know how to describe it. It's crazy. The atmosphere was very, very strong. Obviously, to play an American here is like crazy energy. My head is just buzzing. Caroline Garcia

“I’m super happy about the win, to be in the semifinals,” she said. “I’m just very happy with the performance today, to manage the emotion in my game.

“I’ve been able to play my game, and that’s very important for me.”

18-year old Gauff, the American 12th seed, came into the contest as the clear fan favourite, having assumed the mantle of Serena Williams and reaching the quarter-finals at her home Grand Slam for the first time, while Garcia, a 28-year old Frenchwoman, is riding the wave of late success this summer.

Ranked 75 in mid-June, Garcia won the titles in Bad Homburg on grass, Warsaw on clay and Cincinnati on hard courts.

Coached for most of her career by her father, Louis Paul, Garcia has thrived under her new coach Bertrand Perret, and arrived in New York back in the Top 20 and seeded 17, with 13 consecutive wins to her name.

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

“I’m just trying to follow this path.”

Coco Gauff could not find answers to Caroline Garcia's aggressive game in the US Open quarter-final

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

Garcia has found high-quality on-court aggression, and takes the ball early, and while Gauff fired a 128 mile per hour serve in the 2nd-round, the Frenchwoman stood on or inside the baseline to return and drilled the ball into the corners or at her opponent’s feet.

“It’s definitely tricky, especially when you’re hitting good serves,” Gauff admitted later. “I hit a couple around 120 [mph] and they were coming back faster.”

It was another powerful performance from Garcia, who simply took the momentum away from the American.

Gauff has also had her fair share of success this summer, but could find no answer to the unerring ball-striking of the Frenchwoman.

Sir Andy Murray predicted, 11 years ago, that Garcia was a future World No 1 when, as a 17-year-old, she led Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros, and she is now fulfilling some of that promise.

“It was definitely a challenge,” said Garcia of the expectations placed on her shoulders. “When it was 2011 after the Sharapova match, it was a lot of pressure coming from actually nowhere.

“I was 150, 200 in the world, 17 years old. My game was not ready. The weeks after I went back trying to play the same level, but it was not possible for me.

“It was tough because people were expecting a lot. But the game, I was not ready for anything of that. It took me some time to come step by step to the top.

“End of 2017, 2018 was a great year, a lot of success. We made some mistakes. I really hope and, I think, we learn from it.

“Now it’s a new year, trying to learn from every challenge. I think I grow up a lot with all the challenges on and off court.”

Caroline Garcia's all-court game outplayed Coco Gauff in front of a partisan home crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

Garcia reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final 5 years ago and, in 2018, hit a career high ranking of No 4 in the world, but there had been significantly more downs than ups since, with both injury as well as form.

All this has been put behind her, though, and Garcia came into Tuesday night’s quarter-final aiming to score her first win against Gauff in 3 meetings.

“It was a very intense match,” Garcia said. “Every point, every game was really tough.

“The atmosphere was really American with a lot of energy out there. I’m just very happy with the performance today, to manage the emotion in my game.”

Garcia came out of the blocks quickly, sticking to her plan and building a quick 4-0 lead.

“You’re playing someone off the bat, they’re standing on top of the baseline and ripping balls, it’s not easy,” Gauff said. “She has the type of game that you, kind of, have to adjust to because I feel like it’s not hit-or-miss, because she definitely makes more, but you’re hitting a good serve, and sometimes you’re not expecting the ball to come back as fast and as deep as she was hitting it.”

Gauff broke to get on the board down 4-1, and slowly began to close the gap.

The key game came with Garcia serving at 4-2 when the American got the score to deuce but could not generate a break point after 3 chances, and the Frenchwoman held for 5-2 before calmly closing out the set 2 games later after 45 minutes.

Although Gauff appeared to slow Garcia’s momentum towards the end of the first set, the errors that had dogged her returned early in the second, which unfolded in similar fashion, with the Frenchwoman breaking early for a 2-0 lead and holding off the American from there.

After dropping her serve, Gauff showed a rare flash of temper, muttering loudly to herself after one point and cracking her racket on the blue hard court the next.

Garcia remained a picture of calm, even when the crowd applauded her double-fault in the 8th game and she trailed 0-30, but she held her nerve to hit a forehand winner, forced an error from Gauff, and delivered a couple of aces to go up 5-3, and never looked back.

“I just go for my shots even when I’m stressed, or when I don’t feel it,” Garcia said. “The way to improve for me is to move forward, and I just try to follow that way.”

Under the French cosh, Gauff fluffed balls she would normally make, but the pressure from Garcia was relentless, and not even the 18-year old’s speed and court coverage could rattle the Frenchwoman, who closed out the match after an hour and 37 minutes.

Garcia finished with 24 winners to 22 unforced errors, while Gauff, who out-aced the Frenchwoman 5 to 4, struck 18 winners and 24 miscues.

“Her level was great – I knew it was going to be great coming in,” said Gauff, who will make it into the Top 10 for the first time despite her quarter-final loss. “I feel I didn’t play at the level I needed to come out with the win today.

“Overall, I’m super proud of myself on this tournament, but I’m hungry for more. So maybe next year.”

Garcia moves on to face Ons Jabeur, the World No 5, with an eye to becoming the first French major winner since Marion Bartoli in 2013, .

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Garcia said. “It’s just crazy.”

Caroline Garcia defeated Coco Gauff for the first time in 3 meetings

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Earlier, Jabeur became the first African woman to reach the US Open semi-finals in the open era with a 6-4 7-6(4) victory over Serena Williams’ conqueror Ajla Tomljanovic.

Gauff, meanwhile, took satisfaction from her first US Open quarter-final appearance but admitted her campaign was tinged by disappointment.

“First quarter-final at the US Open, so there’s a lot to be proud of. But definitely disappointed,” she said.

“I think it makes me want to work even harder. I feel like I know what I have to do.”

Garcia arrived in New York fresh from winning the Cincinnati Masters, and Tuesday’s win was her 13th straight singles victory.

The 28-year-old said she was flourishing after regaining full fitness, having had to take a 2-month break from tennis leading up to the French Open in June to recover from an ankle problem.

“I always played very aggressive and the last couple of months I feel healthy again and I’ve been able to move and practice the way I want,” said Garcia. “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s crazy.

“The atmosphere was very, very strong. Obviously, to play an American here is like crazy energy. My head is just buzzing.”



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