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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Coco Gauff and defending champion Iga Swiatek will meet in the French Open semifinals

    Coco Gauff of the U.S. celebrates winning her quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

    Paris — Coco Gauff's long and successful Tuesday at Roland Garros began when she arrived at about 8:15 a.m. There was a warmup session. A couple of meals. A couple of matches. Oh, and a couple of victories — first, one to reach the singles semifinals, and then one to reach the doubles quarterfinals, which wrapped up a little past 4:30 p.m.

    “It goes by really fast, I will say,” the 20-year-old American said. “When you’re playing the match, it just goes by really fast.”

    There is more work to be done, and there are more long days on the horizon, for Gauff, who will meet defending champion and No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek in singles on Thursday.

    “It’s good to just keep going and not think about this match as something huge — just another match — to not put too much baggage on your shoulders,” Swiatek said. “But I guess Coco is not easy. She really likes playing on clay, especially here. I’ll just focus on myself and I’ll prepare tactically and we’ll see.”

    Swiatek picked up yet another lopsided victory, beating Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2 and stretching her French Open winning streak to 19 matches as she seeks a third trophy in a row in Paris and her fourth in five years.

    “She's, I feel like, way better than anyone else on clay, and especially here. It’s very tough," Vondrousova said. "I feel like on the court, you have nothing to maybe offer. She's just too strong here.”

    No. 3 Gauff came back to defeat three-time major finalist Ons Jabeur 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semifinals at a third consecutive Grand Slam tournament.

    “I’ve been trying to do better at being consistent in the big tournaments,” Gauff said, “and I’m reaching that level of consistency.”

    She won her first major title at the U.S. Open in September, then made it to the semifinals at the Australian Open in January. Gauff was runner-up to Swiatek at the French Open in 2022.

    Overall, Swiatek has won 10 of 11 meetings against Gauff, including a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal win on clay last month en route to the Italian Open title.

    “I definitely think I have to find a better way to play her than the last times I played on clay, because I’ve obviously been unsuccessful the last couple of times we’ve played — regardless of the surface and anything,” Gauff said. “She’s definitely a tough opponent for me. And for anybody.”

    Sure is.

    The day's biggest news was that defending champion Novak Djokovic withdrew from the men's bracket because of a torn meniscus in his right knee. He will be replaced at No. 1 in the ATP rankings by Jannik Sinner next week.

    Casper Ruud, the runner-up in Paris the past two years, got a walkover into the semifinals, where he will play Alexander Zverev or Alex de Minaur. Sinner beat Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday and next meets Carlos Alcaraz, a winner at night against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    Other than a tough three-set triumph over Naomi Osaka in the second round, Swiatek has been dominant in this French Open. Take away the 17 games Osaka managed to win, and Swiatek has dropped a total of only 11 games in her other four matches.

    Swiatek followed up her 6-0, 6-0 shutout of Anastasia Potapova in the fourth round by grabbing the initial seven games against Vondrousova.

    “I felt,” Swiatek said, “like I was in the zone.”

    And make no mistake: Vondrousova is no slouch. In addition to being a Grand Slam champion, she was a finalist at Roland Garros in 2019, won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and currently is ranked No. 6.

    But she never stood a chance against Swiatek, who compiled 25 winners to just 10 unforced errors. Swiatek, a 23-year-old from Poland, faced just one break point — and, naturally, she saved it.

    “Everything worked," Swiatek said.

    Against the eighth-seeded Jabeur, Gauff pulled away to lead 5-2 lead in the last set, then needed a trio of match points to close things out, acknowledging afterward that she grew a little tight. In the last game, Gauff needed to save a break point, before Jabeur dismissed one match point with a disguised drop shot that earned a roar from the stands. The 29-year-old Tunisian responded by putting her right index finger to her ear.

    But on Gauff's next opportunity to seal the victory, Jabeur badly flubbed an overhead. Gauff smiled, then raised her arms and yelled.

    “My favorite thing about Coco is her fighting spirit. I think she’s playing, like, great tennis right now, but I saw her playing better before,” Jabeur said. “Obviously she’s such a fighter. She always tries to find ways. She’s really smart on the court.”

    With the crowd at the main stadium loudly supporting Jabeur at times, Gauff did not play badly in the opening set. But Jabeur was superb, winning 17 of 18 first-serve points, never facing a single break point and accumulating a 12-5 edge in total winners.

    When she delivered an ace at 114 mph (184 kph) to end the set, Jabeur nodded repeatedly.

    “She’s a tough opponent and she’s well-loved on tour," Gauff said. “I could tell by the crowd today — I know you guys wanted her to win. Honestly, whenever she’s not playing (me), I cheer for her, too.”

    Poland's Iga Swiatek celebrates winning her quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
    Tunisia's Ons Jabeur misses a return in her quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Coco Gauff of the U.S. at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
    Coco Gauff of the U.S. plays a shot against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur during their quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

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