Coco Gauff dealt just fine with the heat, the humidity, her big-hitting opponent and the task of trying to reach the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time, defeating 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2 on Tuesday.
Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida, is the first American teenager to reach the final four at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams was the runner-up to her older sister, Venus, in 2001.
“Last year, I lost in the quarterfinal stage, and I wanted to do better this year,” Gauff said. “Still have a long way to go, but I’m happy and I’m ready to get back to work for the next one.”
This was the 16th victory in her past 17 matches for Gauff — a first-round exit at Wimbledon in July sure feels like ages ago. Her best Grand Slam showing so far was making it to the final at Roland Garros last year.
Gauff lost that title match to Iga Swiatek and those two could have met again in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. But Swiatek didn’t make it, instead losing to Ostapenko in the fourth round. That defeat not only ended Swiatek’s title defence but also meant she will relinquish her spot at No. 1 in the WTA rankings to Aryna Sabalenka next week.
When she is on the mark, as she was Sunday night against Swiatek, Ostapenko can be as challenging an opponent as there is, because she goes for broke on nearly every stroke. If the balls land in, she is in business. When they don’t, she is in trouble. She finished with 36 unforced errors Tuesday; Gauff had 14.
“I didn’t feel comfortable at all the whole match, even on match point. I know the game she plays. She has the ability to come back, no matter the scoreline,” said Gauff, who lost to Ostapenko at the Australian Open in January, “so I was just really trying to get every point, trying to play every ball.”
In the semifinals Thursday, Gauff will face No. 10 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic or No. 30 Sorana Cirstea of Romania. They were scheduled to play Tuesday night.
The women’s quarterfinals on Wednesday will be Sabalenka of Belarus vs. No. 23 Zheng Qinwen of China, and Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic vs. No. 17 Madison Keys, an American who was the runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open.
Djokovic downs Fritz
In Tuesday’s first men’s quarterfinal, which was played with the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof partly closed to offer some shade to fans and players with the temperature above 32 C and the humidity above 50 per cent, 23-time major champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia defeated No. 9 Taylor Fritz of the United States 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic improved to 8-0 against Fritz and 13-0 in U.S. Open quarterfinals, while making it to his 47th Grand Slam semifinal overall, breaking a tie with Roger Federer for the most by a man.
Djokovic will now meet No. 10 Frances Tiafoe or unseeded Ben Shelton, who had joined Fritz in making this the first time since 2005 that three U.S. men were in the final eight in New York.
The match was played with the Arthur Ashe Stadium retractable roof partially shut, which offered shade both for spectators and the two competitors.
On the changeovers, the players sought solace, either by removing a shirt for a bit or wrapping ice-stuffed towels around their necks or pouring water overhead.
Both Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia, and Fritz, a 25-year-old from California, had some trouble on the most sweltering day of the tournament so far.
But while Djokovic eventually got his shots straightened out, Fritz’s miscues just kept on coming.
Fritz had 19 unforced errors and just four winners in the first set, and while he did start to put more balls in the court as the match wore on, he was unable to find the mark consistently enough. By the end, Fritz had 51 unforced errors, nearly twice as many as Djokovic’s 26.
Dabrowski into women’s doubles semis
Meanwhile, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Erin Routliffe have advanced to the women’s doubles semifinals.
The duo outlasted sixth seeds Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., and Taylor Townsend of Chicago 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) in a two-hour, 31-minute quarterfinal match on Tuesday.
After evening the match by taking the second set, the 16th-seeded Dabrowski and Routliffe jumped out to a 4-1 edge in the third and final set.
WATCH | Dabrowski, Routliffe roll to semis:
Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, ranked 16th in women’s doubles at the U.S. Open, beats sixth-seeds Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., and American partner Taylor Townsend 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) in the quarterfinals.
However, Fernandez and Townsend won three straight games to even it up. After taking a 6-5 lead, they failed to capitalize and Dabrowski and Routliffe forced a tiebreak.
Having taken a 7-2 edge in the tiebreak, it was Dabrowski and Routliffe who almost fell apart as Fernandez and Townsend got six of the next seven points to tie it up. But after an unforced error gave Dabrowski and Routliffe match point, they capitalized with a backhand volley winner to advance.
Dabrowski and Routliffe will play the winner between third-seeded Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff and the eighth-seeded duo of Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh and China’s Xinyu Wang.