By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, June 7, 2021
Coco Gauff is fluent in all surfaces—and is making her major breakthrough on her least favorite surface.
In just her seventh major main-draw appearance, the 17-year-old Gauff swept Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-1 to reach her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros.
The 2018 Roland Garros girls champion rides a career-best, nine-match clay-court winning streak into the French Open quarterfinal against former doubles No. 1 Barbora Krejcikova, who crushed 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens for her maiden major singles quarterfinal appearance.
Though Gauff owns a 17-3 clay-court record, including winning 12 of her last 13 matches on clay, the Delray Beach-born teenager confesses clay is her least favorite surface.
Because Gauff doesn’t like to get dirty.
“I feel like hard will always be my favorite, because that’s just what I’m used to and that’s what I started on. So I would say that’s No. 1 [surface],” Gauff said. “Between clay and grass, I don’t know. I have good results on both… “I think I’m going to go with grass second and clay last.
“The only reason I say grass second, I haven’t played on grass since two years, since Wimbledon 2019, so I don’t know. But I think just because grass, just because it has a special place in my heart, and, you know, that’s kind of where you guys probably all heard of my name for the first time, so I think grass.
“Only thing about clay I don’t like, it’s just whenever you fall, you just get all dirty and I don’t like that. But, yeah, I think I’m going to go hard, 1; 2, grass; 3, clay.”
One reason why Gauff, who has reached the fourth round at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open, is enjoying a clay-court tear is she’s stabilized her second serve. Gauff arrived in Paris fresh off sweeping singles and doubles titles in Parma and leading the WTA Tour in double faults.
After committing eight double faults in her 7-6(11), 6-4 opening-round win over qualifier Aleksandra Krunic, Gauff has committed just six double faults in her last three victories. In her best performance of the tournament, Gauff served 66 percent, won 22 of 27 first-serve points, did not hit a double fault and did not face a break point pounding out a 53-minute win over Jabeur.
So what’s the difference on serve?
Gauff says she’s practicing her second serve daily, applies a three-point plan before each second serve and stays positive “if it goes in, it goes in; if it doesn’t we try again.”
“I just spent a lot of reps on it, especially since Madrid. I think I had a lot of double faults that match, and I’ve just been serving pretty much every day,” Gauff said. “Not really focus on so much the speed of it. Just feeling confident because the problem was my confidence on the serve, like I would play in practice, make 50 second serves in a row, and then I get to the match and get nervous.
“Now I don’t feel as nervous when I’m serving. I just feel like I focus on the three main things, and then it just happens. If it goes in, it goes in; if it doesn’t, we try again.”
Photo credit: Internazionali BNL d’Italia Facebook