Tennis-Gauff brings self-belief to latest French Open campaign

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 10:01 AM

By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World number three Coco Gauff will take lessons learned from a challenging clay court swing to Roland Garros, as she looks to build on her Grand Slam breakthrough last year at the U.S. Open.

The 20-year-old American has not won a clay court tournament since 2021 and had focused all her efforts on ending that barren run before her latest French Open campaign.

She fell short of that goal, exiting Stuttgart in the quarter-finals and the Madrid Open round of 16, before falling to her rival Iga Swiatek in Italian Open semi-final last week, but arrives in Paris with her confidence intact.

“From the start of the clay till now, I feel like my confidence is definitely very high,” she told reporters after the 6-4, 6-3 defeat to the world number one Swiatek.

“I lost playing the right way. I know that I’m a good player and that I can do better in those moments. I think I’m just trusting myself and my practice at that… Going into Roland Garros, like if you asked me pretournament and now, I feel like I’m a different player in terms of just how I’ve been playing.”

There is little wonder that Gauff would be riding high after a career breakthrough that saw her pick up her maiden major on her home turf last year.

She started 2024 strong as she defeated Ukrainian Elina Svitolina to pick up a WTA 250 title in Auckland and she had her best-ever performance at the Australian Open, reaching the semi-final stage, where she lost to Aryna Sabalenka.

She followed that up with a trip to the Indian Wells semi-finals.

But Gauff struggled with her serve in Rome and knows that she will need everything in her arsenal should she run into Swiatek in Paris.

The Polish player has beaten Gauff all but one of their 11 previous meetings and could very well stand between the American and the Roland Garros prize after ending her campaign in the quarter-finals a year ago and defeating her in the 2022 finale.

“Going into it, I know she’s the one to beat if I want to win Roland Garros,” said Gauff. “I’m going to take what I learned from (the Italian Open) and try to apply that next time we play, which I hope is at Roland Garros.”

The Roland Garros main draw begins on Sunday.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Michael Perry)