18-year-old American Coco Guaff advances to semifinals of French Open
May 31, 2022, 11:17 AM
PARIS (AP) — Coco Gauff left Roland Garros 12 months ago crestfallen, knowing she let a big lead slip away in her major quarterfinal debut. She vowed to remember that and learn from it.
Consider that done.
Gauff, still only 18, returned to that stage Tuesday for a second time and was not about to let this one end similarly, beating 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2 in a matchup between Americans at Court Philippe Chatrier to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.
“It was just a mental challenge today,” said Gauff, who began this trip to Paris by taking photos near the Eiffel Tower while holding her recently earned high school diploma. “Last year in the quarterfinals, it was a tough loss for me and I think that match made me stronger and better prepared for the tough moments today.”
Gauff has seemed to be preparing for this sort of moment for quite some time, even before she became the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history at age 15 and beat Venus Williams en route to the fourth round there in 2019, even before she won the French Open junior title a year prior.
One measure of how she has continued to improve: Her forehand was long considered her weaker groundstroke, but against Stephens, that produced more winners than her backhand did.
“I believe in myself. Even last year, I was too focused on trying to fulfill other people’s expectations,” said Gauff, who hasn’t dropped a set through five matches. “I know no matter how good or bad my career is, I know I’m a good person, so I think that’s a good message for young people. … Just know: If you love yourself, who cares what anyone else thinks?”
Her quick rise is quite a contrast from the long road her next opponent, Martina Trevisan of Italy, traveled along the way to her own first Slam semifinal at age 28.