NEW YORK – Caroline Wozniacki has reached the top before. The desire to get back there is what drives her return after three years of retirement, which included having two children.
Coco Gauff is trying to get to where Wozniacki was. Many feel she is on edge, and in fact, she could land her first major this week in New York.
That backdrop shaped what was probably the most anticipated match at the US Open to date – Sunday’s fourth-round match between Gauff, 19, and Wozniacki, 33, a former world number one and two-time finalist here (2009 and 2009). 2014) and shone through the first three rounds.
To be clear, Goff, the No. 6 seed, was the heavy favorite, with a 78 percent chance of winning, according to IBM Match Insights. But Wozniacki gave her everything in her power, and she needed three sets to qualify, and she qualified for the quarter-finals by defeating her 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
The match took a dramatic turn early in the third set. Wozniacki, who took advantage of Gauff’s error to win the second set, broke to open the third set. Instead of applying more pressure, I let Jove take control. Gauff went on to win six straight matches to win his 15th in 16 matches since losing in the first round at Wimbledon.
“Honestly, I lost the second set because of a lot of mistakes,” said Gauff. “I was trying to tell myself to be ready for one more ball because she’s a player, when you think you’ve won the point, it’s not over yet. I was telling myself to be ready for one more ball back.”
In the quarterfinals, Gauff will face No. 20 Jelena Ostapenko, who upset world No. 1 Iga Schvetek in three sets later on Sunday. Ostapenko defeated Gauff in the fourth round at the Australian Open earlier this year, their only meeting since 2019.
“Jelina, she’s a ball striker,” said Gough. “It’s hot or cold, to be honest….I might get more free points, maybe not. Maybe I’ll make a lot of winners.”
Perhaps Gauff will have to find additional equipment if she wants to reach the semifinals. Gauff made 44 unforced errors to Wozniacki’s 27 on Sunday, and although she had more winners – 33-14 – Gauff had to routinely fight break points to hold serve. She saved seven of her 10 break points.
“There are things I think I can do better on my serve,” said Gough. “In the return matches I did very well. I think I could have handled my service games a lot better. … In that second set I had a lot of short balls and just fouls. I think I need to look for bigger targets.
As for Wozniacki, defeat aside, her run has been impressive, as she was playing in her first major tournament since the 2020 Australian Open, and only her third tournament since picking up the racket again. En route to the fourth round, she defeated No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round and American Jennifer Brady in the third round.
“Obviously I’m disappointed because I wanted to continue to progress in the championship, but overall I think I put in a really good show this week overall,” said Wozniacki. “I’ve played well all the time, consistently. I think there’s a lot I can take away from playing a major tournament. I’ve beaten some great players along the way.
“Today Coco played a little bit better than me. You can see why she’s been playing consistently well for the past two months. I think she really stepped up when it mattered.
Wozniacki played two tournaments this year before the US Open, both in August. She lost in the second round in Montreal and lost her first round match in Cincinnati. Her first match here was her fourth since losing to Anas Jabeur in round three in Melbourne over three and a half years ago.
“I wanted to see with those three events that I came back and played this year where I had tennis, body and everything else. I learned a lot from that,” she said. “I’m exactly where I want to be. There are still some things I want to work on that I can do better, but overall I think it’s very positive. In every event I’ve played, I’ve played a little bit better. In every game here, I’ve played a little bit better each time. There are so many positives I can bring with me.”
Wozniacki, who was an analyst for The Tennis Channel and ESPN after retirement, suggested that Gauff play the full game as she did in her young career.
“I think Coco, for the last month and a half, since Wimbledon, hasn’t been afraid of the forehand, which she’s done in the past,” Wozniacki said. “I think she’s gotten a little more in depth with this and a little bit more rotational. I think that’s why she’s clearly winning on a consistent basis. … I feel now everything is coming together for her.
“I definitely think this tournament is where I’ve been winning games being the aggressor,” said Gauff. “That day showed I can play aggressively, and I know this is probably when I’m at my best.
Coco Gauff, with a charged crowd at her side, kicked off the US Open with a tense win
(Top photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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