Tennis-Gauff can make it ‘Big Four’ in women’s game, says Jabeur

By Thomson Reuters Jun 4, 2024 | 9:06 AM

PARIS (Reuters) – Coco Gauff’s game intelligence and fighting spirit will go a long way in establishing herself in the “Big Four” of women’s tennis, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur said after losing to the American in the French Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Third seed Gauff battled back from a set down to beat Jabeur 4-6 6-2 6-3 and reach the semi-finals for the second time. She finished runner-up in 2022.

Since Ash Barty’s retirement, world number one Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina have won six of the last eight Grand Slam titles to earn the “Big Three” tag.

But 20-year-old Gauff — who won her first Grand Slam title at last year’s U.S. Open — has climbed up to third in the rankings, sandwiched between the big-hitting Sabalenka and Rybakina.

“I think Coco is an amazing player. My favourite thing about Coco is her fighting spirit. I think she’s playing great tennis right now,” Jabeur told reporters.

“Obviously, she’s such a fighter, she always tries to find ways, she’s really smart on the court. I definitely see her becoming maybe (a member of) the ‘Big Four’. They have the ‘Big Three’ right now,” she added with a smile.

“I think she has a long way (to go). She’s what, number three right now? And having a lot of things to improve, it’s actually good news for a player.”

Although Gauff had struggled during the claycourt swing as she looked to fine tune her serve, the American has worked on her weaknesses to turn it into a potent weapon.

Against Jabeur, she consistently hit 200 km/hr, with one serve clocking 205 km/hr — the fastest serve hit by a woman at Roland Garros this year.

“It was a tough match today, which I expected. Coco plays really well,” Jabeur added. “At certain moments it was difficult for me to return her serves, mainly on my forehand.

“Coco was better (in) the moments, especially in the third set.”

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)