As Coco Gauff fought to stop the momentum working against her in the final set of her tension-filled fourth-round battle with Caroline Wozniacki At Arthur Ashe Stadium, his coaching staff had some advice. Gauff’s new coach, Brad Gilbert, suggested it was time for her to hit with more spin, prioritize consistency and initiate longer points.
But Gauff had already politely asked her team to stop advising her and in one of the most important moments of her season, she took matters into her own hands. Instead of waiting patiently behind the baseline as instructed, she pushed her way inside and attacked relentlessly. After a tense, physical and fascinating generational battle, Gauff emerged victorious over Wozniacki, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to return to the quarterfinals of the US Open.
“Making it 2-1 was a turning point,” the sixth seed said of her recovery after going down by a break in the final set. “I showed that I was still in the match after a break. I started taking my photos. I was still aggressive, I think I made a few mistakes in the second, but Caroline is back. It’s like she never left. The level she played at today was incredible. She was an inspiration to me growing up.
This was the most anticipated match of the tournament so far and the protagonists shared many similarities. They are two of the best athletes of their generation, both armed with formidable backhands and who found success at a young age. However, early in their career, their later success was limited by their forehands, which the rest of the tour targeted.
Even though she conceded her first service game, the 19-year-old played an excellent first set. She found an effective balance between taking initiative and remaining consistent in the many long physical exchanges that took place throughout and she got plenty of feedback. Above all, the American served extremely well, constantly getting free points and mixing her serves well. This contrasted with Wozniacki, who allowed Gauff to overlook his poor second serves and was punished for it.
But the Dane’s ability to solve problems and figure out how to win matches is undeniable. After a frustrating first set, she started the second finding a lot more first serves and she locked down her game, offering minimal unforced errors while daring Gauff to hit her consistently. As the rallies became even longer and more physical with no end in sight, Gauff’s forehand began to crumble. She finished the set with 16 unforced errors on her forehand.
As Gauff tried to stem the flow of forehand errors, the constant advice from her coaches, Pere Riba and Gilbert, began to irritate her, prompting her to ask them to stop. Cue Gauff responded by going full throttle into the attack, immediately breaking back, reestablishing her excellent serving form and staying center stage as she sealed a significant victory.
Things won’t get any easier for Gauff in the quarterfinals, where awaits Jelena Ostapenko, who beat her at the Australian Open and booked her place in the round of 16 here with her victory over the champion in title Iga Swiatek. But after the misery of her first-round loss at Wimbledon, Gauff followed a spectacular hard-court summer with another deep run at a Grand Slam tournament, establishing herself as more of a contender and doing things her way.
After two difficult tournaments, Wozniacki leaves New York with an excellent performance after being retired for three years.
Not only did she beat 11th seed Petra Kvitova, but the wildcard showed that, if she continues to work, her level and physique are high enough for her to be a factor next year.