Coco Gauff knows what it takes to reach a Grand Slam final. Been there, done that. What she hasn’t experienced is winning a major championship. So her first trip to the semifinals at the U.S. Open does not leave her satisfied at all, no matter how dominant the performance was that got her to that stage.
“The dreams never came with the people in the stands and autographs. That was never in the dreams,” the 19-year-old from Florida said. “It was just, like, the trophy.”
That hardware is getting closer. Gauff dealt just fine with the heat, the humidity and a big-hitting opponent to defeat Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2 on Tuesday, becoming the first American teenager to reach the final four at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams in 2001.
“Even though (by) the semifinals, (in) theory, if you want to win, there’s two matches left, you can’t think like that,” the sixth-seeded Gauff said. “I’m still in the mindset that I’m in the beginning of the tournament. That’s what I have learned in the past (from) being in quarterfinals: Before, I would think, ‘Close to the end.’ But right now, I have the mentality that I told myself, ‘I still have another two weeks to play.’ So that’s where my mind is at. Then, obviously when it’s over, it’s over. But right now, I’m just saying, ‘Another two weeks.’”
This was the 16th victory in her past 17 matches for Gauff, who will face No. 10 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic on Thursday. Muchova, who made it to the French Open final in June, also used a terrific start — saving the nine break points she faced in the opening set, all in one game — to get past No. 30 Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-0, 6-3 at night.
A year ago at this time, Muchova was ranked 235th and exited the U.S. Open in the first round. But she showed off every bit of the variety she possesses to accumulate a 32-12 advantage in winners against Cirstea, who was appearing in her first Slam quarterfinal since 2009.
For Gauff, a first-round exit at Wimbledon in July sure feels like ages ago.
She reached the final at Roland Garros last year, but lost that title match to Iga Swiatek; they could have met again in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. But Swiatek didn’t make it, instead losing to Ostapenko in the fourth round. That defeat not only ended Swiatek’s title defense but also meant she will relinquish her spot at No. 1 in the WTA rankings to Aryna Sabalenka next week.
“I was shocked,” Gauff said.
When she is on the mark, as…