Coco Gauff has advanced to her first career Grand Slam semifinal after defeating fellow American Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2 at the French Open on Tuesday.
But the 18-year-old Gauff said graduating high school was her bigger accomplishment this month.
“Was graduating tougher? Yes, because I know how hard it was to do school and play tennis on the road,” she said after the match. “Other players in general get out of sight with life and we think tennis is the most important thing in the world. It is not.
“So getting my high-school diploma meant a lot to me.”
Tuesday’s quarterfinal at Roland Garros was not the first time that Gauff and Stephens have faced off at such a high level. In a U.S. Open quarterfinal showdown last year, Stephens was the one who came out on top.
“I feel so happy right now that words can’t explain,” Gauff added. “Last year’s quarterfinal was a tough loss and it made me stronger and better prepared for moments like today.
“Last time I played (Stephens) I lost so I’m glad today it went different. I told myself to stay mentally there, and that I know there would be shots that I should probably have made.”
Gauff is the first American semifinalist at the French Open since Sofia Kenin made the final in 2020. Kenin lost to Iga Swiatek, the No. 1 seed at this year’s tournament.
Since 2016, when Serena Williams last made the final, American players have had some success in the late rounds at the French Open. Stephens reached the final in 2018, and Amanda Anisimova made the semifinals in 2019.
This year, two Americans could find themselves in the semifinals. Jessica Pegula will play in her first French Open quarterfinal Wednesday and could join Gauff. She faces a tough test, however, in world No. 1 Swiatek, who hasn’t lost in 32 matches.
Gauff already has secured her spot, and she could make it 2-for-2 on the year for Americans in Grand Slam finals after Danielle Collins made the final at the Australian Open. Collins lost the championship match to Ash Barty.
The last American to win the French Open remains Williams, who won the tournament in 2015. Sofia Kenin was the last American to win a Grand Slam, winning the Australian Open in 2020.
In the semifinals, Gauff will face off against fellow first-time semifinalist Martina Trevisan, who took out Leylah Fernandez in three sets in the quarterfinals.
Trevisan, 28, spent four years away from the game to battle an eating disorder. So to reach the semifinals represented not just a professional but a personal triumph.
“I’m happy on the court,” she said. “I’m doing what I love. So my past is the past, and it helped me to be in the present, to be what I am right now.”
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