NEW YORK — Caroline Wozniacki has been to the top before. The desire to get back out there motivated her return after three years of retirement, which included having two children.
Coco Gauff is trying to get to where Wozniacki was. Many feel she is on the brink, and in fact, she could get her first major this week in New York.
That backdrop formed what was probably the most anticipated match at the US Open to date — Sunday’s fourth-round match pitting Gauff, 19, against Wozniacki, 33, a former world No. 1 who has reached the final twice here (2009 and 2009). 2014) and he excelled during the first three rounds.
To be clear, Gauff, the No. 6 seed, was the favorite, with a 78 percent chance of winning, according to IBM Match Insights. But Wozniacki gave it her all, and she needed three sets to advance, and advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory.
The match took a dramatic turn at the beginning of the third set. Wozniacki, who took advantage of Gauff’s error to win the second set, broke serve to open the third set. Instead of applying more pressure, she let Gove take control. Gauff fought six consecutive matches to win for the 15th time in 16 matches since his loss in the first round at Wimbledon.
“Honestly, I lost the second set because of a lot of mistakes,” Gauff said. “I was trying to tell myself to be ready to play an extra ball because she is a player, when you think you have won the point, it is not over yet. I was telling myself to be ready for another ball to come back.”
In the quarterfinals, Gauff will face No. 20 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who upset world No. 1 Iga Cvetic in three sets later on Sunday. Ostapenko beat Gauff in the fourth round at the Australian Open earlier this year, their only meeting since 2019.
“Jelena, she’s a ball striker,” Goff said. “It’s hot or cold, to be honest. … Maybe I’ll get more free points from it, maybe not. Maybe it’ll have a lot of winners.
Gauff may have to find additional equipment if she wants to reach the semifinals. Gauff committed 44 unforced errors to Wozniacki’s 27 on Sunday, and although she had more winners – 33-14 – Gauff had to routinely fight off break points to hold serve. She saved seven out of 10 break points.
“There are things I think I can do better with my serve,” Gauff said. “In the return games I did pretty well. I think I could have handled my service games a lot better. … In that second set, I had a lot of short balls and just mistakes. I think I need to look for bigger goals.”
As for Wozniacki, regardless of the defeat, her career has been impressive, as she was playing in her first major tournament since the 2020 Australian Open, and only her third tournament since she picked up the racket again. En route to the fourth round, she defeated No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round and American Jennifer Brady in the third round.
“Obviously I’m disappointed because I wanted to keep progressing in the tournament, but overall, I think I had a good showing overall this week,” Wozniacki said. “I played well all the time, consistently. I think there are a lot of things I can take with me from playing a major tournament. I beat some great players along the way.
“Today Coco played a little bit better than me. You can see why she’s been playing so consistently well over the last couple of months. I think she really stepped up when it mattered.
Wozniacki played two tournaments this year before the US Open, both in August. She lost in the second round in Montreal and lost her first round match in Cincinnati. Her first match here was her fourth since losing to Ons Jabeur in the third round in Melbourne more than three-and-a-half years ago.
“I wanted to see through these three events that I came back and played this year where I enjoyed the tennis, the body and everything else. I learned a lot from that,” she said. “I am exactly where I want to be. There are still some things I want to work on that I can do better, but overall, I think it’s very positive. In every event I played, I played a little better. Every game here, I played a little better every time. There are a lot of positives I can bring with me.”
Wozniacki, who was an analyst for Tennis Channel and ESPN after retirement, suggested Gauff plays a complete game as she did in her young career.
“I think Coco, over the last month and a half, since Wimbledon, has not been afraid to hit the forehand, which is what she did in the past,” Wozniacki said. “I think she’s gotten a little deeper into it and a little more rotating. I think that’s why she’s clearly winning on a consistent basis. … Now I feel like everything is coming together for her.”
“I definitely think this tournament I’ve been winning games by being the aggressor,” Gauff said. “Today showed that I can play aggressively, and I know that’s when I’m probably at my best.”
Coco Gauff, with a charging crowd at her side, started the US Open with a tense win
(Top Image: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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