Gauff On Clay: With Experience Comes Comfort

Coco Gauff (photo: Marta Magni/MEF Tennis Events)

PARMA/WASHINGTON, May 20, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

American teenager Coco Gauff has won nine of her first 12 matches on green and red clay this season, which includes an impressive semifinal run to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia last weekend before she lost to her teenaged contemporary and eventual champion Iga Swiatek.

During Gauff’s Roman run in the Eternal City, she took out three straight Top 20 opponents: No. 18 Maria Sakkari, No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, improving her play round by round.

Tennis TourTalk asked the 30th-ranked Gauff during a virtual interview on Wednesday if she’s achieved a certain comfort level playing on clay now that she’s logged a dozen matches. “Yeah, definitely, for sure,” she said. “I’m way more comfortable on clay because it comes with experience. The movement is a lot better and the shot selection is a lot better. I think with more matches I’m going to keep getting better.”

Fast forward from the hustle and bustle of Rome to the country club feeling of the Emilia-Romagna Open, a WTA 250-series event on red clay, and on Wednesday afternoon, the 17-year-old, third-seeded Gauff reached the final eight with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 83 Camila Giorgi. It advanced Gauff to her third clay-court quarterfinal of the season. It also set up an interesting all-American clash on Thursday with 40th-ranked Amanda Anisimova, in their first meeting on the WTA tour. Anisimova reached the quarterfinals with a pair of straight-set wins over No. 91 Jasmine Paolini and 125th-ranked qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.


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In 2017, then 16-year-old Anisimova defeated a 13-year-old Gauff 6-0, 6-2 in the girls’ junior US Open final. “We haven’t seen each other in a while on the court,” Gauff said. “I think it will be a great match. She’s obviously a great player, she hits the ball big and trusts her strokes. So, it will be a good test to see how I defend against that.

“I think it’s going to be important to take my chances when I can, and continue to be on offense.”

Spain’s Badosa: ‘Confidence is a day-by-day thing’

Mutua Madrid Open semifinalist Paula Badosa of Spain has reached her third straight quarterfinal on clay and fourth of the 2021 season at the Serbia Ladies Open in Belgrade this week. The 23-year-old, ranked 44th, has compiled a 16-7 win-loss record overall this season and is 10-2 on clay. In the past year, Badosa has gone 14-5 against Top 100 players.

On Thursday, weather permitting, the No. 4 seed Badosa plays Sweden’s 61st-ranked Rebecca Peterson, seeded seventh, with a berth in her fourth semifinal this season – and third straight on clay – riding on the outcome. While she’s still looking for that elusive first WTA tour-level title, it seems the 23-year-old New York City-born Spaniard is getting closer to attaining that goal.

Tennis TourTalk caught up with Badosa on Tuesday evening after her 6-0, 6-4 second-round win over No. 179 Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, and asked her to explain the level of confidence she’s attained, which has included winning six of her last eight matches in straight sets. Badosa won her first-round match in Belgrade Sunday over No. 106 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 6-2, 6-3.

“I think the confidence is a day-by-day thing, you know? Before all of these matches, before Charleston, I knew I was doing the job well,” Badosa said. “I was practicing very good. Every day, I was focused on that. It’s a little bit the secret. I’m doing that every day, no matter if it’s match day or if it’s practice day.

“So, I’m focused on myself, the game plan as well and what to do: ‘Where do I have to serve? Where do I have to play?’ A little like that. Things are going well. I think that’s a little bit [why I’m doing well).”

Is there anything Badosa can point to that she’s most proud of in her two wins in Belgrade this week? “I think after Madrid, the toughest thing sometimes is dealing with the pressure,” she said. “I think [what] I’m most proud is I’m enjoying these matches. Some months ago, I wasn’t enjoying them. I was a little bit too nervous, I wanted too much to win, you know? I still want that, but I’m enjoying it, both the joy and the suffering of the match.”

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Thanks to Coco Gauff‘s Top 30 ranking, she’ll be seeded at Roland Garros, which starts in 10 days. She’s also entered in next week’s Internationaux de Strasbourg in France, the final women’s clay-court tune up for Paris. “Right now, I’m signed up for Strasbourg. I’m planning on playing in it, but it just all depends on how I feel at the end of the week and how I do here,” she said. “If I do super well here, it’s probably, maybe not likely I’ll play [Strasbourg] so I can take a little bit of a break and, you know, it’s mainly a mental break. Going tournament to tournament, it’s not easy. It just depends upon how I do here.”

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