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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Monday, May 13, 2024


US Open champion Coco Gauff rallied for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Paula Badosa to set up a Rome quarterfinal vs. Zheng Qinwen.

Photo credit: Dan Istitene/Getty

Seeing her serve shrink like gelato in the sun, Coco Gauff refused to shrivel under stress.

Turning up her transition game, Gauff beat Badosa 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 battling into her second Rome quarterfinal.

More: Tabilo Shocks Djokovic in Rome

On a day in which Gauff’s serve eluded her for stretches—she served 38 percent, clanked 11 double faults and faced 9 break points—the US Open champion’s quickness to extend points and some forward thinking helped her prevail.

Gauff was sharp at net and a convincing closer—she won 12 of the final 14 points—to crack the code and beat Badosa for only the second time in five career matches.

Afterward, Gauff said she'll continue to try to go big on first serve.

"I think for me the focus will be getting more first serves in," Gauff said. "I think my first-serve percentage was low, but my win percentage was in the high 70s or something like that. I think once I can get that down...

"I'm going big on the first serve, so I know I'm probably going to miss more. I think it's just finding the balance of going big but also knowing when to slow down the pace just to get the serve in.

"Honestly, I mean, I bet on myself to continue to go big."

The 20-year-old Gauff equaled Caroline Woznack for the most wins (60) at WTA 1000 tournaments before turning 21.

The third-ranked Gauff, who has a shot to surpass Aryna Sabalenka for the world No. 2 spot depending on results this week, will play Zheng Qinwen for a spot in the final.

Australian Open finalist Zheng thrashed four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka 6-2, 6-4.

The 2022 Roland Garros finalist Gauff joins American compatriot Madison Keys in the last eight. Both Gauff and Keys are bidding to become the fourth American woman to win Rome, joining Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Monica Seles in ruling Rome. 

The 18th-seeded Keys crushed Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-1 for her second straight WTA 1000 quarterfinal.

Keys will face world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in a rematch of the Madrid semifinals.

The top-seeded Swiatek stopped former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3.

Former world No. 2 Badosa and Gauff have a shared history, which had been largely futile for the American. Badosa took the court with a 3-1 career record over Gauff and had exploited her sometimes shaky forehand wing in the past.

Today, former Indian Wells champion Badosa served for the first set at 5-4 only to see Gauff break point. Badosa broke again and then served out the first set at love.

To that point, Gauff was challenged trying to find the service box.

In set two, Gauff double-faulted back the break in the fifth game.

Trying to stabilize after three straight breaks, Gauff was up 4-2, 30-15 when she crumpled on a second serve.

“Left side’s collapsing,” Gauff told herself after the double.

Falling off the ball on her toss, Gauff coughed up her ninth double fault of the match ceding serve for the fourth time then swiping her Head racquet at the dirt in disgust of giving away the break again.

Measuring a mid-court forehand, Badosa banged a winner holding to level at 4-all with a clenched fist.

Venting her frustration on the ball, Gauff belted a stinging second serve to set up a rocket forehand winner down the line.

It was as if the US Open champion told herself: If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging. Amping up the pace on first and second serves, Gauff held firm for 5-4 with some of her most decisive serves of the set.

Swinging more freely, Gauff won a forehand-to-forehand exchange for triple set point. This time, it was Badosa’s turn to tighten on serve.

The Spaniard spit up her seventh double fault to end a break-filled set. Gauff forced a decider after one hour, 50 minutes.

Still struggling to land first serves, Gauff opened the final set with her 10th double fault. When Gauff dragged a forehand into the middle of the net, Badosa grabbed the break.

Under break-point pressure in the following game, Badosa swept a diagonal forehand winner denying a third break point only to double fault to face a fourth break point.

Turning defense to offense, Gauff lifted a lilting lob then smacked a two-handed pass crosscourt breaking back.

When Badosa hit her ninth double fault, Gauff gained double break point in the fourth game. Playing successive high-bounding forehands to push Badosa back behind the baseline, Gauff stepped in and scalded a backhand crosscourt breaking for 3-1.

The 20-year-old American ran threw down her first love hold to consolidate for 4-1. Gauff won nine straight points opening a 5-1 lead and converted her first match point to close in two hours, 27 minutes.


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