NEW YORK — Caroline Garcia never really let Coco Gauff — or the crowd — get fully involved in their US Open quarterfinal on Tuesday night.
From the start, Garcia played high-stakes tennis and put shots where she wanted, sometimes right at Gauff’s feet, sometimes well out of reach. Unlike the early success Gauff, just 18, enjoyed, it’s been a long journey for Garcia, who can now play the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career at 28.
Garcia, the 17th seed, took the lead at the start and never gave up in a 6-3, 6-4 win over 12th-seeded Gauff at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I just go for my shots,” Garcia said, “even when I’m stressed.”
She had lost her previous two matches to Gauff, who was a runner-up at Roland Garros in June, but was by far the better player this time around.
“His level was great and I knew it was going to be great, and I feel like I didn’t play at the level I needed to get the win today – but overall I’m great proud of me for this tournament,” Gauff said. “But I’m hungry for more, so maybe next year.”
Garcia, who hails from France, hasn’t given up a set at Flushing Meadows so far this year and extended her winning streak to 13 games in total, cementing her status as a player as good as anyone in the world. women’s tennis right now.
She finished last season ranked 74th, but is now expected to break into the top 10 next week.
“The last two months,” Garcia said, “I feel healthy again.”
She will face Tunisian Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur on Thursday with a place in the final on the line.
“I can’t wait to take on the next challenge and see what I can accomplish,” Garcia said.
Jabeur became the first woman representing an African nation to advance to the US Open semi-finals in the professional era with a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over the player who beat Serena Williams in the third round, Ajla Tomljanovic.
Jabeur said his run to the title match at the All England Club made him “believe in myself more” and realize: “I had the capacity in me to win a Grand Slam.”
Tomljanovic exchanged a long hug at the net with Jabeur, who is a close friend, after the game.
“I’m just trying to do my job and hope to inspire more and more generations from Africa,” Jabeur said. “It really means a lot to me.”
In the Garcia v Gauff match, it was 4-0 at just 17 minutes as the crowds continued to fill. Overall, there was less vocal support for Gauff than she had heard in her previous win at Ashe.
During that pretty perfect start, Garcia capped off a 17-shot rally with a forehand winner down the line. She raised her fist and held this pose while looking at her guest box, where her father and coach were standing. It was a sequence that would repeat itself.
Both are big servers: Gauff hit the fastest by a woman in the tournament this year, at 128 mph; Garcia leads the WTA in aces in 2022. Each delivered one at 117 mph in their first service game.
But it was Garcia who read Gauff’s offers much more effectively. Garcia often came back deep enough to seemingly surprise Gauff, who rushed some responses. After one of Gauff’s many attempted responses settled into the net, she swung her racquet towards the ground, as if to indicate, “Why do they always land there?!”
That kind of constant pressure and Garcia’s tendency to stay well inside the baseline to receive second serves could have contributed to Gauff’s six double faults.
Garcia also quickly got the upper hand on the baseline with his clean, crisp shots. During a brief TV interview on her way to the locker room in court, Garcia said she hoped to be “more aggressive”.
She certainly was.
In a nod to her expertise in the volley – something she showed in doubles, where she won two Grand Slam titles with French partner Kristina Mladenovic – Garcia advanced whenever an opening presented itself. She won 13 out of 16 points when she went to the net.
Rather than fear and try to stay clear of Gauff’s stronger backhand, Garcia chased after him, making repeated mistakes.
“I had a lot of unforced errors today; I think I had a few balls where I could have finished the point, especially when it came to the net – I missed a lot of passing shots when they were open,” Gauff said. “I think I just need to reduce [the unforced errors]especially when you’re playing against an aggressive player like Caroline, you can’t make so many unforced errors.”
Gauff would sometimes show a bit of frustration with his game, slapping himself on the thigh or hitting his racquet on a pitchside towel rack. She was trying to become the youngest American in a US Open semi-final since Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam title in New York in 1999 aged 17.
Garcia wouldn’t allow it.
The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
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