Dubai, Feb 23 (IANS) No.5 seed Coco Gauff reached the third semifinal at WTA 1000 level or above of her career with a 6-2, 7-5 defeat of Madison Keys at the Dubai Tennis Championships, here on Thursday.
The 18-year-old American was competing in her 10th quarterfinal across WTA 1000 and Grand Slam tournaments but had only previously converted two of those into semifinals — at Rome 2021 and Roland Garros 2022, where she made her first major final.
Two years ago, Dubai 2021 marked Gauff’s WTA 1000 quarterfinal debut. This week is the first time she has reached the last four of a tournament at this level of clay.
Gauff has now won her last seven matches against fellow American players, and 12 of her last 13. Since Doha exactly one year ago, the only compatriot she has lost to is Amanda Anisimova at Wimbledon.
Her overall record against Americans at WTA’s main draw level is 19-6. That includes a 2-1 lead against Keys, whom Gauff also defeated in straight sets at last year’s US Open.
Next up for Gauff is a matchup that has hitherto been challenging for her. She will face No.1 seed Iga Swiatek in the semifinals for the sixth time; in five previous meetings, including last year’s Roland Garros final, Gauff has yet to win a set.
Gauff only needed to find three winners to speed through a one-sided first set, as a disastrous stat sheet for Keys saw the World No.23 commit 22 unforced errors to zero winners off the ground. The former US Open finalist’s slew of mistakes included multiple shots wide of the doubles alley and a netted overhead to go down a double break.
Keys also went down an early break in the second set but reined her game in to break back and keep level with Gauff through several games. But leading 5-4, she missed a couple of half-chances to break the teenager for the set; and at 5-5, Keys contributed a game reminiscent of the first set featuring a double fault, drive volley error and, on break point, a shanked forehand.
Gauff’s solidity on serve had rarely faltered throughout the match. She landed 73% of her first serves and won 72% of those points. In keeping with this, she closed out the match with a minimum of fuss, converting her second match point as Keys committed her 51st unforced error of the day, a forehand into the tramlines.
“Staying present at the moment and just accepting the good shots she hit [was key]. I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I’m glad I was able to stay stable when I needed to,” Gauff said after the win.
“This is the third time we’ve played against each other, so I think we knew what each other is like. We practised last week together in Doha, so it definitely helps. But sometimes it doesn’t help, because they know what you like to do because they play with you so much. You just have to stick to your game plan,” she added.
Gauff on what she’s learned from her record against Swiatek: “All five times, I did something wrong! To be honest, she’s playing great tennis and there’s a reason she’s World No.1. Tomorrow I have no pressure. I just have to play my game — I definitely think I’ve gotten better since the last time I played her. The ranking is just a number, at the end of the day. You just have to step on the court believing you can win, and that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow.”