Clinical Coco returns to familiar territory

The 18-year-old is back in the Roland-Garros quarter-finals

Coco Gauff Roland-Garros 2022 huitièmes©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

An inspired showing from Coco Gauff sent the teenage sensation back into the Roland-Garros quarter-finals on Sunday.

The 18-year-old prevailed 6-4, 6-0 in a high-quality clash with Elise Mertens to match her 2021 venture into the last eight.

“Fun” is the buzzword for Gauff, who will vie for a further step in Paris this season when she takes on Jil Teichmann or compatriot Sloane Stephens in the next round.

Story of the match

Both these multi-faceted players remain in the women’s doubles draw and are ranked inside the doubles top 10, which was evident on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Sunday.

Smooth hand skills, supreme anticipation; the rallies were an absorbing watch.

Gauff shifted her body weight to deflect a backhand winner down the line to threaten an early break. Mertens, with 50 Grand Slam singles wins to her name, also made an encouraging start and stole a 2-1 lead off the back of persistent precision.

Gauff's transition play up the court was golden, the American connecting with a jumping backhand and pin-point volleys to draw level. 

The duo were excelling in all-court tennis, Mertens clipping in a retrieval squash shot, Gauff managing to whip a backhand around the net post and was airborne for several shoulder-height strikes.

The set seemed destined for a tiebreak until 5-4. World No.32 Mertens was cajoling the crowd for a louder applause after the 26-year-old saved set point with an overhead that ended a brilliant 31-shot rally. Gauff wasn’t letting the chance slide, curving a lob over the outstretched Mertens to complete a compelling 57-minute opener.

The teenager, junior champion here as recently as 2018, continued to rise through the gears.

Gauff pounced on a short ball and some arrowed groundstrokes right at Mertens opened up the court and the 18-year-old swatted away a backhand drive volley for an instant break.

With a spring in her step Gauff secured all the remaining games with a beaming smile on her face.

Key stats

This elite pair engaged in a catalogue of captivating rallies, which was an integral part of Gauff's triumph

In rallies of just 0-4 shots, Mertens led 18-13, however in rallies containing 5-8 shots, it was heavily in the American’s favour at 25-11. That was the same case for the points going even further into 9+ shots, which Gauff edged 26-13.

Utilising her doubles prowess, Gauff canvassed the net with aplomb, claiming 17 of 20 points in those close quarters.

What the players said

“I think I just tell myself to fight for every point. Pressure is a privilege and I’m glad people are expecting things from me,” said the elated world No.23, when asked how she handles such high-pressure situations with such poise at such a young age.

“I’m just going to enjoy it, I used to focus on results too much. I think this Slam, I’m probably having the most fun than I ever did in a tournament.”

Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2022, fourth round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT