Garcia tops Gauff at U.S. Open for 1st Slam semifinals

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NEW YORK — Caroline Garcia knows how it can feel to be a teen in tennis getting a ton of attention and outsized expectations, the way Coco Gauff does now.

One big difference: Garcia, now 28, became an overnight sensation more than a decade ago thanks to one particularly noteworthy performance on a big stage – and long before she achieved the sorts of things Gauff has at 18.

At the U.S. Open, Garcia took charge and never really let Gauff – or the crowd – get fully involved. From the get-go, Garcia played high-stakes tennis and put strokes where she wanted, sometimes right at Gauff’s feet, sometimes well out of reach, and reached the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career with a 6-3, 6-4 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It kind of got away from me,” said the 12th-seeded Gauff, an American who reached the French Open final in June. “It was all her. … I was striking the ball really clean. You’re playing someone, off the bat, they’re standing on top of the baseline and ripping balls. It’s not easy. ”

Garcia, who is from France, hasn’t ceded a set at Flushing Meadows so far this year and stretched her winning streak to 13 matches overall, solidifying her status as someone playing as well as anyone in women’s tennis at the moment.

“The path is very clear right now,” Garcia said. “Which direction I have to go, under stress, under pressure. I’m just trying to follow this path.”

Back in 2011, still just 17 and ranked 188th, playing in only her second tour-level event, Garcia led Maria Sharapova – who had won three of her five Grand Slam titles by then – 6-3, 4-1 in the second round at Roland Garros. Sharapova wound up taking the last 11 games to win, but Garcia was suddenly on the map.

Sharapova praised her as someone “on her way way up, definitely,” and Andy Murray wrote on Twitter that day: “Girl sharapova is playing is going to be No.1 in world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here 1st.”

Asked recently about that, Garcia laughed and said she’s never talked to Murray about it.

“I was very surprised because, in the end, I still lost the match. But it was a funny moment. … I was pretty much nobody at the time. I’m not going to complain about it, but I was definitely not ready. More importantly, my game was not ready for it,” Garcia said. “I was not able to (play) the same, match after match or week after week. I was trying to manage the pressure that came from it.”

She did get to No. 4 in the rankings in 2018, but finished last season ranked 74th. Now she is projected to rise into the top 10 next week and will face Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur of Tunisia with a berth in the U.S. Open final at stake.

Jabeur advanced to her first semifinal in New York with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over the player who beat Serena Williams in the third round, Ajla Tomljanovic.

In the men’s quarterfinals, No. 5 Casper Ruud beat No. 13 Matteo Berrettini in straight sets and will play No. 27 Karen Khachanov, who eliminated No. 23 Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in a match that finished at about 1 a.m..

In Garcia vs. Gauff, it was 4-0 merely 17 minutes in, as spectators were still filing in. All in all, there was less-vociferous support for Gauff than she heard in her previous victory in Ashe.

During that pretty perfect start, Garcia capped one 17-stroke exchange with a down-the-line forehand winner. She raised her fist and held that pose while looking at her guest box, where her father and coach were on their feet. It was a sequence that would be repeated.

Garcia stood right near the baseline, or inside it, and read Gauff’s serves effectively. Garcia often returned deep enough to seemingly startle Gauff, who rushed some responses. After one of several attempted replies by Gauff settled in the net, she jutted her racket toward the ground, as if to indicate: “Why do these keep landing right there?!”

Gauff ended up double-faulting six times and finished with 24 unforced errors.

Taking balls early off the bounce, Garcia gained the upper hand from the baseline with her crisp strokes. During a brief TV interview on the way from the locker room to the court, Garcia said she hoped to be “more aggressive.”

She certainly was.

With her volleying expertise – she has won two Grand Slam doubles titles with French partner Kristina Mladenovic – Garcia moved forward whenever an opening presented itself. She wound up winning 13 of 16 points when she went to the net.

Gauff occasionally would show a bit of frustration at her play, slapping herself on the thigh or knocking her racket on a courtside towel holder.

She was trying to become the youngest American woman in the U.S. Open semifinals since Serena Williams was 17 when she won her first Grand Slam title in New York in 1999.

Garcia would not allow it.

“Overall I’m super proud of myself … but I’m hungry for more,” Gauff said with a smile. “So maybe next year.”

Giron cruises in 3rd set, beats Rybakov at Dallas Open

2023 Australian Open - Day 1
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DALLAS – Marcos Giron advanced to the second round of the Dallas Open with a 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-1 victory over Alex Rybakov on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Giron, who reached the semifinals of the inaugural event a year ago, responded quickly after failing to close out the second set, winning the first five games of the deciding set.

Rybakov broke his fellow American when Giron was serving for the match in the second set. Then Rybakov won the first six points of the second-set tiebreaker.

“I’m really happy with how I was able to reset in the third and just get back to the game plan from the beginning and elevate,” Giron said. “He played well and served well and kind of hung in there.”

Eighth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France won the final five points of a first-set tiebreaker and the last four games of the second to beat American Steve Johnson 7-6 (6), 6-2.

J.J. Wolf, the No. 6 seed, had little trouble in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow American Brandon Holt.

John Isner, the fifth seed and unofficial tournament host in his hometown event, played later Tuesday. Like Giron, Isner lost in the semifinals last year.

Sock wins at Dallas Open, set to face top-seeded Fritz

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DALLAS – Wild-card entry Jack Sock opened with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka at the Dallas Open, setting up a second-round meeting with top-seeded fellow American Taylor Fritz.

Sock broke Ivashka’s serve in the final game to win the match. Ivashka fell behind 2-0 to start the final set but broke Sock to get back on serve.

Down a break early in the second set, Ivashka rallied to force the deciding set after Sock cruised in the first-set tiebreaker.

The eighth-ranked Fritz is back for the second Dallas Open after losing in the semifinals as the top seed in the inaugural edition of the indoor hard-court event last year. Defending champion Reilly Opelka isn’t in the field.