While Coco Gauff struggled to stem the momentum working against her in the final set of her tense fourth-round bout against Caroline Wozniacki at Arthur Ashe Stadium, her coaching staff had some advice. Gauff’s new coach, Brad Gilbert, suggested it was time for them to hit with more spin, prioritize consistency and go for longer points.
But Gauff had already politely asked her team to stop acting as an adviser, 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 in and attacked relentlessly. After a tense, physical and mesmerizing generational battle, Gauff emerged victorious over Wozniacki, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 and returning to the quarterfinals of the US Open.
“The 2-1 was the turning point,” said the sixth-seeded team about their comeback after falling behind with a break in the last set. “I showed that I’m still in the game after the break. I started taking my shots. I was still aggressive, I think I made a few mistakes in the second one, but Caroline, she’s back. It’s like she never left. The level she played today was amazing. She was an inspiration to me growing up.”
This was the most anticipated game of the tournament so far and the protagonists had a lot in common. They are two of the best athletes of their generation, both equipped with great backhands and successful from a young age. However, in the early stages of her career further success was limited by her forehand, which the rest of the tour was aimed at.
Despite conceding her first service game, the 19-year-old played an excellent opening set. In the many long, physical conversations that took place over time, she found an effective balance between taking the initiative and insisting on consistency, and she achieved many successes. Above all, however, the American served very well, kept getting free points and mixed her serve well. That was in contrast to Wozniacki, who gave Gauff too many looks on her bad second serves and was penalized for it.
But the Dane’s ability to solve problems and figure out how to win games is undeniable. After a frustrating first set, she started the second by finding many more first serves, and she focused her game and made minimal unforced errors while challenging Gauff to consistently hit through them. As the rallies grew longer and harder, with no end in sight, Gauff’s forehand began to crumble. She finished the set with 16 unforced forehand errors.
As Gauff tried to stem the tide of forehand errors, the constant advice from their coaches Pere Riba and Gilbert began to irritate them, leading them to urge them to stop. Cue Gauff responded with a full-throttle attack, an instant counterattack, restoring her superb serving form and staying on top while securing a meaningful win.
Things won’t get any easier for Gauff in the quarterfinals, where she will be joined by Jelena Ostapenko, who beat her at the Australian Open to secure a place in the last eight with a win over defending champion Iga Swiatek. But after the misery of her first-round loss at Wimbledon, Gauff has hit another deep run at a Grand Slam tournament after a spectacular hard-court summer, further establishing herself as a contender and doing it in her own way.
After two difficult tournaments, Wozniacki leaves New York with an outstanding performance after three years of retirement.
Not only did she defeat No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova, but the wildcard showed that if she keeps working, both her level and physicality are high enough to matter next year.