Iga Swiatek after beating Coco Gauff (Pic: AP)
It seemed like Coco Gauff simply needed to claim if she intended to finally win a set, let alone a match, against No. 1 Iga Swiatek. With shouts of "Go, Coco!" and "Allez, Coco!" emanating from the Court Philippe Chatrier stands, Gauff frittered away two break points as Swiatek served at 1-all. Then, at deuce, came the most memorable moment of Wednesday afternoon, and while Gauff won the point, it soon would be Swiatek who seized complete control of this French Open quarterfinal that was a rematch of last year's final.
During a 14-stroke exchange, both women made their way to the net, and Gauff directed a swinging backhand volley right at Swiatek. The ball struck Swiatek's right leg, and she tumbled back onto the red clay, leaving rust remnants on her white dress and arm. That set up a third break chance for Gauff, but the 19-year-old American again failed to convert, and while it soon was 2-all, Swiatek pulled away from there to a 6-4, 6-2 victory.
"Quarterfinals are sometimes the toughest matches," said Swiatek, a 22-year-old from Poland who is seeking a third title at Roland Garros and fourth Grand Slam trophy overall. "Even though she's young, she's experienced. I'm pretty happy to be in the semifinal."
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Swiatek is now 7-0 against No. 6 Gauff and has won all 14 sets they've played against each other; that includes a 6-1, 6-3 victory for the 2022 championship in Paris.
On Thursday, Swiatek will meet No. 14 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, the first woman from Brazil to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 55 years. The other women's matchup for a berth in the title match will be No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, against unseeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.
In the men's quarterfinals later Wednesday, No. 22 Alexander Zverev faced Tomas Martin Etcheverry, before No. 4 Casper Ruud took on No. 6 Holger Rune at night. One semifinal is set: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 3 Novak Djokovic.
Haddad Maia advanced by coming back for a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over No. 7 Ons Jabeur, a two-time major runner-up in 2022.
Before even knowing she would face Swiatek, Gauff spoke about hoping for that opportunity. Didn't matter how lopsided their head-to-head series has been - Gauff insisted she wanted another shot at Swiatek, who has topped the rankings for more than a year.
This one was even early, at 4-4 in the first set, before Swiatek edged ahead. First she held, then she broke at love, smacking a cross-court forehand to own that set, then raising her right fist and shaking it.
Swiatek's heavy-topspin forehand is probably her best shot. That stroke also happens to be Gauff's weaker side. A glance at the stats demonstrated that: Swiatek finished with a 12-1 advantage in forehand winners.
After dusting herself off when she got hit by the ball off Gauff's racket in the second set, it was Swiatek whose play got better, if anything. And it was Gauff, wearing a bandage on her right knee after scraping it in her previous match, who began having trouble with shot selection and execution.
By the end, Gauff had far more unforced errors, 23, than winners, 13.
Yet to drop a set in the tournament, Swiatek broke to go up 4-2 in the second with the help of a double-fault, and again in the last game with the help of another double-fault.
(With AP inputs)