Nothing has been able to stop Caroline Garcia of late.
Not even the rising American Coco Gauff and a packed partisan crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Garcia, a 28-year-old Frenchwoman, did not appear unsettled in the least in the biggest showcase in tennis on Tuesday night.
She swept the first four games of this U.S. Open quarterfinal in just 17 minutes to take quick control and then rolled to a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Garcia did it by playing the same brand of aggressive, attacking tennis that had carried her to 12 straight victories this summer.
Make it 13.
“I just go for my shots, even when I’m stressed and don’t feel it,” she said in her on-court interview after the match. “The way to improve for me is to move forward, and I just try to flow that way.”
Serena Williams at the U.S. Open
The U.S. Open was very likely the tennis star’s last professional tournament after a long career of breaking boundaries and obliterating expectations.
Though Gauff, 18, did manage to narrow the gap after Garcia’s opening salvo, she could never manage to stop Garcia’s momentum.
“Allez! Continue!” her coach, Bertrand Perret, shouted from the players’ box; a shout that was easy to hear with the big crowd so quiet.
It was the first U.S. Open quarterfinal in singles for both players, and now Garcia, seeded 17th but playing much better than that, will face Perret’s former pupil Ons Jabeur in her first Grand Slam semifinal on Thursday.
Jabeur, a Tunisian seeded fifth, advanced earlier on Tuesday by stopping Ajla Tomljanovic’s run in the quarterfinals by 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Tomljanovic, an unseeded Australian who is based in Florida, recorded the biggest victory of her career in the third round, defeating Serena Williams in a gripping, emotional three-setter in what was likely Williams’s final match.
Tomljanovic then backed that up by defeating Liudmila Samsonova of Russia in the fourth round, but she could not win a set against Jabeur, who reached the Wimbledon final in July.
Jabeur, like Garcia, is 28, and they have known each other since their junior days, some of which Jabeur spent based in France.
“It’s a great challenge for me,” Garcia said of their upcoming semifinal. “Since the juniors, she’s a big, big player, and a tough one for me. I’m looking forward to the next challenge to see what I can improve.”
Garcia, ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2018 before falling back, has certainly lifted her level in the past two months. She was ranked outside the top 70 in mid-June but has simplified her approach with great success and now has six straight victories over top-20 players after losing the previous 12.
She has long had one of the biggest serves in women’s tennis and a powerful forehand, but she has slipped into a higher gear by striking the ball early and forcefully from all areas of the court. On Tuesday, she stood sometimes three steps inside the baseline to return, and Gauff was able to win just 27 percent of the points on her second serve.
It is no easy task to overpower Gauff, one of the best defenders and quickest movers on the women’s tour. She reached this June’s French Open final, her first Grand Slam singles final, on the strength of her improving game and excellent court coverage. She will break into the top 10 in singles next week for the first time and is currently ranked No. 1 in doubles, although she will drop back in the doubles rankings next week after she and Jessica Pegula lost in the first round.
“She is of course very fast,” Garcia said of Gauff in an interview on the eve of the match. “But my game can negate that, because I am not looking to get in too many long rallies.”
So it turned out. The average rally length was 3.53 shots. After winning the title as a qualifier at the Western and Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, last month, Garcia has not come close to dropping a set in five matches at the U.S. Open.