PARIS – It was the first Grand Slam singles quarter-final for Coco Gauff and Barbora Krejcikova and, frankly, it shows.
There were tight groundstrokes into the net, errant serve pitches and multiple double faults, swing and fortune reversals.
To sum up, there was tension in the sun as the fans – remember that? – shouted “Come on Coco!” from the top of the stands of the Philippe Chatrier stadium.
Gauff, the 17-year-old American, received the majority of support, but she didn’t quite manage to give the Roland Garros audience what they wanted. After failing to convert five set points in the first set, she lost to non-seeded Krejcikova 7-6 (6), 6-3.
This is one of the most surprising women’s Roland Garros tournaments in history, and the trend was accentuated when Maria Sakkari beat defending champion Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in the second quarter-final on Wednesday.
Sakkari, a muscular Greek ranked 17th seed, has become a threat to the best: she beat Naomi Osaka in Miami earlier this season on hard court. But Sakkari had yet to break through in a Grand Slam tournament. She did not crack Thursday, delivering a powerful performance against Swiatek, the Polish 20-year-old who had not lost a set at Roland Garros in singles since 2019.
On Thursday, Sakkari will face Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will face Tamara Zidansek. All four women make their first appearance in a Grand Slam singles semi-final.
Gauff, who was the last American remaining in singles, finished with 25 winners, 41 unforced errors and a mutilated racket after angrily destroying it with three quick hits to red clay after committing a double fault for falling behind. of 4-0 in the final together.
“I’m obviously disappointed that I couldn’t finish the first set,” said Gauff. “To be honest it’s a thing of the past, it’s happened before. After the game Enzo, my hitting partner, told me that this game would probably make me a champion in the future. I really believe it.
Gauff was brilliant at times and bamboozled at others. She lost 15 consecutive points at a stage of the second set. It wasn’t entirely his fault. Former Roland Garros doubles champion Krejcikova has started to assert herself as a singles player and has a wide range of shots and tactical options, as well as basic power when choosing to play. invoke it.
But Krejcikova also struggled with her nerves on Wednesday. She was open this week about her efforts to deal with the mental strain of her first deep singles race at a Grand Slam tournament.
Ahead of her fourth round match with Sloane Stephens, she said she locked herself in a room used by physiotherapists to speak to her psychologist. “I was actually crying,” she said. “I felt really bad, and I don’t know why.”
She said she and her psychologist had a long discussion. “She said to me, ‘If you can get over that, what you’re feeling right now, it’s going to be a huge win, and it doesn’t matter if you’re going to win on the pitch or lose on the pitch, because it’s okay. be a personal victory. ‘ It turned out to be a win-win as she played a brilliant game to defeat Stephens, mixing her tricks and decisions expertly, just as Gauff played her best game of the tournament when she beat Ons. Jabeur in the fourth round, winning in straight sets without a double fault.
But Wednesday was a different day. Gauff double faulted near the opener and finished with seven, often catching his serve throws and working to control his breathing. After falling 5-0 in the second set, she didn’t get it right. She continued to fight, maintain the serve and with the crowd behind her, saving three match points to break Krejcikova’s serve in the next game, then saving two more as she held the serve at nearly 5. -3.
Another impetus still seemed possible given the inexperience of both players at this level of a Grand Slam tournament. But Krejcikova held her ground in the next match and when Gauff missed her final forehand, she became the second unranked player to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros this year after Zidansek.
“This one will be on my mind for a few days, that’s for sure,” Gauff said. “I think come to think of it, you know it’s over, so I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, if I did this, if I did that. I think at the time I made what I thought was the best decision and I have to stick to it.
Gauff will start preparing for Wimbledon, which begins on June 28. It was there that she rose to prominence in 2019 at age 15, beating Venus Williams in her first Grand Slam singles match.
Its progress since then has been steady rather than meteoric. There will be more to learn from Wednesday’s setback. But it was a positive season and tournament on clay for the generally much more poised teenager. She reached the semi-finals of the Italian Open and won the singles and doubles titles in Parma. She was seeded 24th in Paris – her first seed in a major tournament – and won four games without losing a set.
“Her time will come,” said Krejcikova, who, at 25, knows a lot about patience.