And just like that, there were none.
With Coco Gauff losing to Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, all Americans are now out of the 2023 French Open.
For the second year in a row, Gauff was the last American standing. In 2022, she had a friendly draw and a stretch of great play and catapulted all the way to the finals, where she faced Swiatek. On that day, Gauff wasn’t really close to Swiatek’s level, losing 6-3, 6-1.
This year was more of the same.
Gauff was gifted a fairly easy draw into the French Open quarterfinals, facing players ranked 71st, 61st, 143rd, and 100th before facing the world’s number one on Wednesday. It was not the tune-up that she needed as Swiatek beat Gauff for the 7th time and has still yet to drop a set to the young American.
In losing to Swiatek, Gauff is not alone. Beaten the Polish star is the biggest challenge in women’s tennis right now. Beating her on clay is a whole other ball game. In the last two years, Swiatek is 31-3 on clay with one of those losses coming last month when she retired with an injury. It’s the reason that she’s the heavy favorite to win her third French Open title this week.
But, for Gauff, the failures are not simply against Swiatek. Despite rising to number six in the world due to her natural talent and consistent form, Gauff is now just 5-17 when she plays somebody ranked inside the top 15. While she’s still just 19 years old and has plenty of room to improve as a player, it has led to questions about whether Gauff has the ability to beat the elite players on tour and win a Grand Slam.
The biggest problem for Coco Gauff appears to be that opponents have learned to relentlessly attack her forehand. Earlier year this, Paula Badosa even admitted, after beating Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in Madrid, that her strategy was to make the American hit as many forehands as possible.
“Of course, going more to her forehand, most because her backhand is very good, and when you have like the spot there, you just go there,” explained Badosa back in May. “I just tried to go to her forehand.”
Badosa also discussed how Gauff tends to struggle when she isn’t able to gain a quick advantage with her serve.
“She plays amazing when she’s defending. She’s very fast. She has crazy backhand, very good serve, especially first serves. I just try to return her every ball to make her play one more. Sometimes when she feels she doesn’t have free points on the serve, she starts to serve a little bit worse.”
That was the case on Wednesday, with Gauff only getting in 48% of her first serves, which led to long rallies and 23 unforced errors.
There is still plenty of opportunity for Coco Gauff to iron out the flaws in her game and get herself to the level to compete against the game’s top players. But, for now, Gauff and the rest of the Americans continue to fall just a step behind the pack, both on clay and in Grand Slams in general and it’s fair to wonder who, if any of them, will be the one to make the big step forward.
Odds for French Open Women’s Final Four
- Iga Swiatek -250
- Aryna Sabalenka +240
- Karolina Muchova +1800
- Beatriz Haddad Maia +2000