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How Coco Gauff is preparing for Iga Swiatek at the French Open



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PARIS — Marketa Vondrousova was bewildered after her quarterfinal loss to No. 1 Iga Swiatek. She had been caught up within the Swiatek hurricane on Courtroom Philippe-Chatrier, slipping to a 6-0, 6-2 defeat. Nonetheless, no less than she picked up a few video games, not like Swiatek’s fourth-round opponent Anastasia Potapova, who misplaced 6-0, 6-0. Afterward, Vondrousouva acknowledged what it’s like being on the mistaken finish of a Swiatek masterclass.

“Yeah, it’s extremely powerful. I really feel like on the court docket you don’t have anything to supply. She’s simply too robust right here.”

She then summarized it: “I really feel such as you simply go loopy each level.”

So over to you, Coco Gauff. Gauff, the 2023 US Open champion, faces Swiatek within the semifinal on Thursday at Roland Garros. For therefore lengthy, Courtroom Philippe-Chatrier was Rafael Nadal’s area, however that baton has been handed to Swiatek. She’s gained three of the previous 4 French Open titles and is the overwhelming favourite so as to add one other Suzanne-Lenglen trophy to her haul on Saturday.

Swiatek and Gauff’s historical past additionally paints a one-sided image: Swiatek has gained 10 of their 11 conferences, every in straight units.

“Look, she’s clearly No. 1 on the planet, and he or she gained this match, like, what, thrice already,” Gauff stated Tuesday after beating Ons Jabeur. “I feel for me I am simply stepping into with confidence. I imply, once I performed her in Cincinnati, I did not go into the match pondering, ‘Oh, I’ve by no means crushed her earlier than, or taken a set off her.'”

That victory was August 19, 2023. Gauff discovered herself within the semifinals of the Cincinnati Open in opposition to her nemesis. She took the primary set within the tiebreak after which misplaced the second set 3-6. However within the third, she discovered a technique to arm wrestle it again in her favor.

“I used to be telling myself, ‘You are a warrior and you are able to do this,”‘ she instructed the Tennis Channel after the win. “I used to be simply saying, ‘I am Coco Gauff and I can do it.'”

Three weeks later, she gained her first Grand Slam in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The gang was totally behind her on that Saturday night in New York. That is usually the case — Gauff being a crowd favourite — however the French Open quarterfinal on Tuesday was an outlier. Followers love Jabeur right here, with a robust Tunisian contingent within the stands supporting her. After dropping the primary set 6-4, Gauff took a restroom break. There, she heard the gang singing Tunisian songs in honor of Jabeur. It propelled Gauff. She got here out within the second set way more aggressive and captured the following two units to advance.

“If my degree would not rise, then I should lose,” Gauff stated on court docket after her 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory. “I knew I needed to increase my degree. … I simply began to play extra aggressive and never letting her dictate me off the court docket.”

When Swiatek was requested what adjustments she’d seen in Gauff since their first assembly on the semifinal of the Italian Open in 2021, she pointed to her mentality.

“I feel her psychological sport is a bit of bit higher, and earlier than it was, you recognize, sort of simpler to ‘crack her,'” Swiatek stated. “I might say, if you had been main. It is regular that she’s making progress. She’s at that age that every little thing goes fairly properly [and] in case you’re working exhausting, then you’re going to get progress. Each facet of her sport is a bit of bit higher, as a result of, yeah, it is completely different being a teen on the tour after which being [a] extra mature participant.”

Gauff thought-about Swiatek’s feedback throughout her information convention. “It’s one thing that I knew I had to enhance and simply be extra constructive, however I feel it simply additionally got here with maturity and realizing that I am unable to beat myself and in addition my opponent beating me,” Gauff stated.

There’s been a operating theme of resilience for Gauff at Roland Garros, and central to that’s the thought course of she’s launched.

At changeovers, you typically see her eyes closed as she’s doing round respiration workouts. In between matches, she makes a concerted effort to remain grounded.

“I like to put on the bottom and simply meditate, whether or not it is for actually a minute or two or 10 or 15,” Gauff stated after her win over Dayana Yastremska within the third spherical on Friday. “It simply sort of is dependent upon the day or how I really feel. I feel it helps to maintain you grounded, as a result of typically in these tournaments, the stress can really feel like quite a bit to do quite a bit. Typically, you simply lay on the bottom, and also you simply suppose that … there’s billions of individuals on this earth and billions of individuals do not even know who you’re. So the matches aren’t as large as they really feel typically.”

She spends a lot of the 12 months on the highway, however used the Mouratoglou Academy in Good, France, as her base throughout the clay court docket swing. She’s prone to return there after Roland Garros, whereas she and her teaching workers will work to reset mentally, level by level. After her win over Yastremska, she spoke on court docket about how she stays targeted attempting to shut tight video games.

“I feel typically when these moments occur and also you simply wish to end the match so quick, you may let issues triple over, whereas if it is 1-all or 2-all, you lose a sport, it is not that large of a deal,” she stated. ” I simply attempt to remind myself the positioning of the match. It is sort of psyching your self out. As a result of then there are occasions if you’re down a set and a break and it’s a must to inform your self it is OK. It is simply actually psyching your self out.”

After which there are the little tweaks she’s made to her serve. “I are likely to go down on my left facet on my serve, which causes loads of double faults. So I feel simply attempting to maintain that left facet up and simply adjusting how I toss the ball, these are the 2 most important issues.”

It should be a special Gauff that Swiatek faces on Thursday. Gauff will look again at their earlier matches right here — dropping the ultimate in 2022 and quarterfinal in 2023 — and attempt to clear up the place she went mistaken. On Wednesday night, she is going to sit down together with her staff and focus on ways.

“I positively suppose I’ve to discover a higher technique to play her than the final occasions I performed on clay,” Gauff stated Tuesday. “I feel she’s enjoying nice tennis right here, so it is going to be a problem, however I am going to enter the match with loads of perception that I can [win].”

She may also want her youngest brother Cameron a cheerful birthday. She’s sorted the items and hopes they’ll have time to speak on the telephone in-between his Fortnite classes.

After which on Thursday within the buildup to the semifinal it will be the standard playlist. Christian gospel music for the warmup.

“Typically once I’m nervous it helps me relax,” she stated.

After which, as she put it final week, it is time to get “hyped.”

“J. Cole, Lil Child, Drake, Kendrick, all of them. Who else? Yeah, Eminem. Mainly any rapper you may consider might be on that playlist.”

She is going to go on the court docket ignoring previous historical past and people matches Swiatek has dictated. Gauff additionally will attempt to be as resilient as ever.

“I am unable to consider previous gamers. Potapova is not me,” Gauff stated. “I am not Vondrousova. It doesn’t suggest something. Possibly I might lose with the identical rating, possibly not, however I am simply going to go in and simply attempt to win. I’ve nothing to lose. All of the stress is on her, so yeah.”

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