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Coco Gauff smashes rackets in French Open heartache

PARIS – Coco Gauff’s grand slam glory must wait.

The 17-year-old Gauff slipped the first set away, so let her emotions get the best of her in a frustrating start to the second in a 7-6 (6), 6-3 quarterfinal defeat at the French Open on Wednesday to the unseeded Barbora Krejcikova.

Gauff led 3-0 at the start, then 5-3, and held a total of five set points in the opening, but failed to convert any.

Krejcikova took advantage and grabbed that set by taking the last four points in the tiebreaker. She then drew 15 consecutive points over a stretch en route to a 5-0 edge in the second set.

Coco Gauff smashes his racket at the French Open
Coco Gauff smashes his racket at the French Open

Finishing the most important victory of her singles career, however, was not easy: Krejcikova needed six match points to do so, lifting her arms over her head when she finally won when Gauff sent a hand in front.

Coco Gauff smashes his racket at the French Open
Coco Gauff smashes his racket at the French Open.
Getty Images

Krejcikova is a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic who has won two Grand Slam doubles titles but only plays in his fifth major singles tournament and only once before reached the fourth round. She is currently ranked as a career-high 33rd and on a 10-match winning streak in singles.

She finished the nine-match race of the Florida-based 24-seeded Gauff and was the youngest French Open quarterfinalist since 2006. Gauff’s 41 unforced errors included seven double errors – and after one she missed her racket frame by hitting the three times towards the ground.

On Thursday, Krejcikova will meet either defending champion Iga Swiatek from Poland or No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari from Greece, who was scheduled to play in last woman’s quarterfinal match. The second semifinal is No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova from Russia against undefeated Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia.

Coco Gauff during her loss at the French Open
Coco Gauff during her loss at the French Open
AFP via Getty Images

Gauff vs. Krejickova began late in the morning with temperatures in the low 70s Fahrenheit (low 20s Celsius), a blue sky and no wind.

After the number of fans in the main stadium with 15,000 seats was limited to 1,000 for each of the first 10 days of the tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions, this limit was raised to 5,000 on Wednesday. And those in attendance pulled high after Gauff, who jumped on stage at Wimbledon two years ago by reaching the fourth round.

Shouts of “Allez, Coco!” (“Let’s go, Coco!”) Greeted his winners. Loud applause of encouragement preceded her service play.

And Gauff treated those supporters to a fantastic start, leading 3-0 after a dozen minutes, thanks in part to winning the first three points that lasted at least 10 strokes and two of Krejcikova’s eight double-fouls.

The contrast was striking as Krejcikova broke back on her way to pulling herself at 3-all when only a bit of polite applause was heard.

Barbora Krejcikova celebrates her victory over Coco Gauff
Barbora Krejcikova celebrates her victory over Coco Gauff.

Gauff served for the opening set at 5-3 and was a point away from taking it but pushed a backhand long. It was followed by a double fault and a net backhand that allowed Krejcikova to break.

Gauff had two more set points while she was 6-5 and returned, but on the first she missed a backhand, and on the second, Krejcikova produced a backhand winner.

Two more chances for Gauff to grab this set arrived in the tiebreaker as the American led 6-4. Again, Krejcikova was up to the task of deleting both by whipping a pair of cross-country handwinners and then using another winner from that wing to take that set.

– With AP

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