New York | Gauff overwhelms Ostapenko to make first US Open semi-final

19 year old Coco Gauff reached her first US Open semi-final on Tuesday when she swiftly dispatched Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets, overwhelming the Latvian on a broiling hot Arthur Ashe Stadium at high noon.

Right now I feel emotionally fresh, which I think was the problem in the past in Grand Slams, I would emotionally be drained. Obviously I’m physically fresh and emotionally fresh, and I think that just came from experience. I think this is one of the harder runs I’ve had to the quarter-final stage. Obviously never got to semis, but I don’t know, I just feel so fresh, to be honest. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been tricking myself or, maybe, when this is over I’m going to hit a wall. But I’m really proud of how I’m able to get through these matches. Coco Gauff

“It feels great,” the American said in her on-court interview after making the Last 4 in the draw. “I’m so happy!

“Last year I lost at the quarter-final stage and I wanted to do better this year. I still have a long way to go, but I’m happy, and I’m ready to get back to work for the next one.”

Gauff’s 6-0 6-2 victory over the 20th-seeded Latvian did not deliver the anticipated blockbuster as Ostapenko never really got herself going, and was a mere shadow of the player who caused the biggest upset of the tournament late on Sunday night when she stormed past World No 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek, 3-6 6-3 6-1.

In fact, Gauff offered Ostapenko few chances to make inroads into the match, playing solidly from the start and not allowing her to get into any kind of stride with her high octane aggressive game.

The Latvian needed to keep her error count low, as she had done against Swiatek, but, instead, she scattered 35 miscues across the match.

From the outset, Ostapenko’s game was off as she went down a double break to the American in just 9 minutes, who was prepared to chase every ball down and pocketed the bagel set in just 20 minutes, prompting the Latvian to head off court to try to regroup.

Gauff was wary of having a letdown, given the pedigree of her opponent.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable at all, the whole match, even on the match points,” she admitted later. “I know the game [Ostapenko] plays. She has the ability to come back no matter the scoreline.

“So I was just trying to get every point, put every ball in. It’s really tough against her because you can’t really be aggressive! So I was trying my best to be aggressive when I could, and most of the time I was just trying to get the ball deep. She’s a tough player and she had a great tournament.”


Jelena Ostapenko put in a lacklustre performance against Coco Gauff, attributing this to a lack of sufficient recovery time after beating Iga Swiatek late on Sunday night

© Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The second looked destined to be a replay of the first when Gauff broke Ostapenko in her first two service games, but the Latvian began to find the court and produced some of the winners that had propelled her to her victory over Swiatek.

She reeled back one of those breaks and held for the first time, and then earned a break point chance at 3-2 with a winning offensive lob.

Gauff hung tough, though, delighting the Ashe crowd with her trademark speed and holding steady.

The 6th seed held onto her serve, then broke Ostapenko as she began to spray her shots again, and, coming from a 0-30 deficit in her final service game of the match, she struck an incredible forehand winner to end a 17-shot rally and become a first-time US Open semi-finalist after just 68 minutes of play.

Gauff is now the first American teenager to reach the Last 4 in New York since Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, who achieved the feat in 2001.

“I mean, being in any sentence with her is great,” Gauff said after the match. “She’s the greatest player of all time. I’m nothing close to that yet, but I’m just honoured to be in the same sentence. It’s something that I’m used to.

“I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Oh, I’m shocked.’ I feel like a lot of the stats have aligned with her, and people find new things to think about. I was the first teenager in the quarters and now semis, so I’m guessing if I win they’re going to be, like, [first in the] finals. [But] I never take it for granted. She’s my idol. I think if you told me when I was younger that I would be in these same stat lines as her, I would freak out.”

Gauff’s winning streak continues, and she has now won 10 matches in a row, which ties her previous career-best win run.

She is not getting ahead of herself, though, and is looking to maintain her focus on the present.

“Right now I feel emotionally fresh, which I think was the problem in the past in Grand Slams, I would emotionally be drained,” Gauff reflected in her press conference. “Obviously I’m physically fresh and emotionally fresh, and I think that just came from experience.

“I think this is one of the harder runs I’ve had to the quarter-final stage. Obviously never got to semis, but I don’t know, I just feel so fresh, to be honest. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been tricking myself or, maybe, when this is over I’m going to hit a wall. But I’m really proud of how I’m able to get through these matches.

“I learned that, you know, there’s still a lot of tennis left to play, and it’s a long match and a long tournament. You know, even though the semi-finals, by theory, if you want to win there’s two matches left. You can’t think like that.

“I’m still in the mindset that I’m in the beginning of the tournament. I think that’s what I have learned, you know, in the past of being in quarterfinals, before I would think, you know, close to the end, but right now I have the mentality that I told myself I still have another two weeks to play. So that’s where my mind is at.”


Coco Gauff's defensive skills proved key against Jelena Ostapenko and she reaches the semi-finals in New York for the first time

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Ostapenko was left to reflect on the lacklustre end to her US Open campaign.

The disappointing defeat came after taking down Swiatek, a win that quickly made her one of the favourites at Flushing Meadows, but, after her late night blockbuster, the 2017 French Open champion was scheduled for midday.

Speaking at her press conference after the loss, Ostapenko admitted that she did not get to sleep until 5 or 6 in the morning after the Swiatek win, and had needed more time to recover.

“I didn’t really feel physically very tired, but I felt, like, I didn’t really recover from that night,” she told reporters. “Because, as I said, I got back to the hotel around, like, 2 am, and even I tried to go to sleep at 3 in the morning, but I had all this adrenaline and it was impossible to fall asleep.”

The 26-year-old claimed that the organisers told her she would be getting the night session for her quarter-final against Gauff, and was surprised when the schedule came out with a noon start.

“I mean, if I play a match, like, a late-night session, then I suppose in one day I have to play at least at the same time or later on, because you don’t really have much time to recover,” she said. “Even you have this day in between, but you still need to practice, to do your things, to do the treatment and stuff.

“So I think it was better for her the schedule, because obviously she played much earlier the day I played night session.

“The thing was that when I asked the day before, I was pretty sure I’m gonna play at night session, because that’s what they told me. When the schedule came out, I saw I’m playing first match and was, like, wow, that’s a little bit strange scheduling.”

Nevertheless, despite the disappointment, Ostapenko was happy with her run in New York.

“I mean, of course, I believe I can win another Grand Slam,” she said. “As I said, I didn’t have much time to recover, and yeah, in general I have to be happy with the week and with few weeks and just move forward.

“Yeah, of course I’m disappointed about today, because I really feel, like, I didn’t even play half of what I played the whole tournament, so yeah.”

As Ostapenko heads out, Gauff will take on Karolina Muchova in the semi-finals of the 2023 US Open, after the Czech dispatched Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-0 6-3 in Tuesday’s night session.




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