Coco Gauff gets her French Open wish
PARIS, France (AP):
Coco Gauff could have hoped for the easy way out. Ever since the French Open bracket determined that the 19-year-old Floridian might end up in a quarter-final against Iga Swiatek, perhaps it would have been understandable if Gauff wished to avoid that particular matchup.
After all, Gauff lost to Swiatek in the final at Roland Garros a year ago. And, after all, Swiatek owns a 6-0 head-to-head lead over their still-nascent careers. But at least in part, because of what happened on June 4 last year and at least in part because she knows Swiatek sets the bar in women's tennis these days, Gauff was thinking about, even wishing for, a rematch on June 7.
That will happen tomorrow in Paris: No. 1 Swiatek vs No. 6 Gauff for a berth in the semi-finals. In yesterday's fourth round, Gauff put aside a bloody knee from a fall to produce a 7-5, 6-2 victory over 100th-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova before Swiatek moved on when her opponent, 66th-ranked Lesia Tsurenko, stopped playing because she was sick and had problems breathing while trailing 5-1 in the first set.
Gauff played earlier in sun-splashed, windy Court Philippe Chatrier, and she was wrapping up her news conference just as Swiatek and Tsurenko were playing their very first point in Court Suzanne Lenglen.
So the question was put to Gauff: Would you rather deal with the difficulty of facing Swiatek again or face pretty much anyone else?
Her answer sounded both honest and revelatory.
"Since last year, I have been wanting to play her -- especially at this tournament. I figured that it was going to happen because I figured I was going to do well, and she was going to do well," Gauff said.
"But I'm the type of mentality: If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. If you want to improve, you have to play the best. I feel like the way my career has gone so far, if I see a level, and if I'm not quite there at that level, I know I have to improve. And I feel like you don't really know what you have to improve on until you see that level."
Swiatek already achieved some of what Gauff wants -- and, maybe just as importantly, believes she's capable of achieving, too.
The 22-year-old from Poland took over at No. 1 in the WTA rankings 14 months ago, a status on the line at this tournament.
She owns three Grand Slam titles -- two at the French Open and one at the US Open.
Gauff's best showing at a major was the runner-up finish at Roland Garros, where she is now in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive appearance.
Swiatek figures that they know each other's games well.
But she also made the point that a quarterfinal does not have the same stakes or same pressure as a final does.
"This is a totally different year, totally different tournament," said Swiatek, who hasn't dropped a set so far and won four by a 6-0 score. "I have to be ready, regardless of what happened last year."