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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday May 24, 2020

 
Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff has won 12 of 15 matches on clay in 2021 and it could be the beginning of a very special career on clay.

Photo Source: Magni Images/MEF Tennis Events

Coco Gauff—devilish dirtballer?

We don’t think of the rising American as a clay guru, but she is a former Roland-Garros Girls Singles champion, along with Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin and Jennifer Capriati. Maybe there is something to Coco on clay?

Tennis Express

It certainly seemed so on Saturday when Gauff rolled to the Parma title in both singles and doubles, both to the public and Gauff herself.

'It definitely means a lot," she said. "Especially on clay, which is not really a surface that people associate me with, so it feels good and I like the dirt now. I always talk about how I don't like it - but I like it now."

Gauff has expressed a preference for the faster surfaces in press conference, but it’s easy to see why she is such a ringer on clay. She’s fast, and blankets the court, leaving her opponents almost zero chance to hit winners. The surface also seems to relax her. She plays to bigger targets and therefore hits fewer errors.

"I always liked it," Gauff insisted on Saturday after she defeated Wang Qiang in straight sets in the final. "It's just that I always fall on it. I always get dirty, but I obviously have good results on it, so it's not about my performance, it's just that clay shows you a little extra love than the other surfaces, it's just like going home, taking a shower and I have clay coming out of me from all different places. Clay sometimes still in my clothes from weeks later. That's the only thing I don't like about it. But obviously performance-wise I do well on it."

Dirty or not, Gauff now has tons of confidence heading into Paris, and a Top-25 ranking to boot (also worth noting: She was 2-2 lifetime on clay through 2020--now she is a cool 14-5 on the surface). She believes another breakthrough could be on the horizon, and she’s playing like it as well.

"I feel really good about going into the French, and I'm hoping that I can continue to build and get better,” she said. “I think I have like a week and a day to get ready and I feel like I'm hitting good, moving good, my body feels good, my mentality and emotionally I feel good, so I think it will be a good tournament for me."

Lessons Learned for All Surfaces: Be Aggressive

Yesterday Gauff talked about her evolution as a player overall. She says that her third year on tour has seen her reach a new level of decisiveness.

"For me I learned a lot about committing to my decisions and my shots," she said. "I feel like sometimes in the past I would try to push my way out to the finish line, but now I feel like I'm really keeping my foot on the gas pedal the whole match, and that's something that I've been working on. But I think it's common, because at the beginning when I started the tour, I didn't really trust my decisions, just because playing professionally compared to juniors is a completely different game, so I really didn't know what I was doing, but I feel like now with more matches behind me I kind of how a better feeling about how I want to play."


On the clay, however, patience is more in the mix. She said that adapting to the clay will actually help her on the other surfaces.

"Clay, it teaches you patience, and that's something that I need to still learn, so I think it will help on the grass and on hard,” she said. “Probably the points may be a little bit shorter on the other surface but it definitely teaches you patience and to not rush things. With clay your opponents just naturally are going to get more balls back on clay, because the surface is slower and you have the sliding, so it makes you play that extra ball, and I think when it's time to go to extra surface, maybe you might hit more winners, because the court is faster and your opponent may not get to the ball."

Paris, Je t’aime

Gauff isn’t just thrilled to be going to Paris for the Grand Slam tennis. She says she’s just happy in the city no matter what she is doing, and she has been ever since she first visited as a 10-year-old.

"I love Paris. It's my favorite city," she said. "Roland-Garros, I always have some good memories from that tournament, in the juniors and even last year, but I just want to continue to build and do better and better every year."


She elaborated further…

"I love the Eiffel Tower, and I love the food, I like the language, but Paris was the first city I visited out of the country, I visited when I was ten, and ever since then I just loved it. I don't know, walking around I just feel happy there. Yeah, I don't know what makes me like it, it just draws me to it.

"Even France as a whole, France has always been a second home for me, I spend a lot of time in Nice at the Mouratoglou Academy. I think it's just for me, I like to be home when I can, so I just think of it as a home away from home, so it kind of gives me that feeling that I'm home, even though I'm not. So I think France as a whole I would say is a second home country for me."

A Double Threat

After winning her third WTA doubles title with Caty McNally at her side, Gauff talked about the strong relationship and chemistry the pair have developed over the years.

"Yes, we're definitely planning to play the French Open together,” she said, before talking about how both players dream of Grand Slam glory in singles and doubles.

"We both discuss how we both want to win singles and doubles grand slam titles, hopefully against each other in the finals one day, and with each other in the finals in doubles, so yeah, we both want to be the best, and I think for us, we have a good friendship. I've played her a couple times in juniors and she's honestly one of the best competitors that I know, she's someone that hates your guts on the court, but will be your best friend off the court, that's something that I really respect about her and I like playing with her."

 

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