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.”

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.