Quite a trip to Paris in the spring for 18-year-old American Coco Gauff: she celebrated her high school graduation – a feat hailed via social media by former first lady Michelle Obama – and is now in the quarter-finals of the French Open for the second consecutive year.
How did you spend the last week?
Learning as he went, Gauff took control of a tight first set against No. 31 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium on Sunday and won the last eight games to retire for a 6-4 victory, 6-0 in the fourth round at Roland Garros. .
“You’re never going to play your best tennis in a Slam every moment of the game, but I think I’m getting better and better,” said Gauff, the 18th seed in the clay major, “and I think , mentally, that I can’t ask for much more of myself in every game.”
Next up will be a match against Sloane Stephens, who returned to the French Open quarter-finals for the first time since 2019 beating Jil Teichmann 6-2, 6-0. Stephens won the 2017 US Open and was a runner-up at Roland Garros the following year. But she hasn’t made the last eight players in any major tournament since her quarter-final defeat in Paris three years ago.
The other quarter-final in the bottom half of the table will be a match between lefties: 17th-placed Leylah Fernandez, a 19-year-old Canadian who reached the US Open final last year, against Italy’s Martina Trevisan, 59th. , who also reached the quarter-finals in Paris two years ago.
Fernandez compiled more than twice as many winners, 35, as unforced errors, 17, and broke serve half a dozen times to beat 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 4-6, 6 -3 on a cold, windy day. Trevisan have won the last four games and eliminated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (10), 7-5.
“Every time I step out on the court, I still have something to prove,” said Fernandez, who was ranked just 73rd last September when she beat four-time Major champion Naomi Osaka before becoming the second to Emma Raducanu. at Flushing Meadows. “I still have that mindset, I’m the underdog. I’m still young.”
Gauff, of course, is even younger.
In 2021, she was the youngest French Open quarter-finalist in 15 years, but squandered five set points in the opener of a loss to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova.
That stayed with her on Sunday, when she was in a home-and-away first set against Mertens who was 4-all before Gauff got going. Afterwards, she congratulated herself on remaining calm in the moment.
“That’s the biggest lesson I learned last year in my quarter-final game. I had a few set points, and I think I freaked out when some of those points didn’t didn’t work my way,” said Gauff, who delivered one around the -net-post backhand on the run but ultimately lost that exchange. “Today I didn’t panic when a few of those important points didn’t work out for me.”
Gauff burst onto the Wimbledon scene in 2019 aged 15 by becoming the youngest – yes, there’s that word still – qualifier in tournament history, beating Venus Williams in the first round of the main draw and going to the Fourth. More Week 2 races at major tournaments followed.
She is proud of her academic achievement. She posted a series of photos on Instagram of herself wearing her cap and gown and holding a diploma, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
A response from Obama, whom Gauff encountered, was a nice surprise.
“I’m super grateful for that message. … Which really meant a lot: It wasn’t about tennis, it was about my upbringing,” Gauff said. “So I think that meant more to me.”