Coco Gauff into French Open fourth round, close to clinching Olympic spot

Coco Gauff French Open
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PARIS — Coco Gauff is into the French Open’s fourth round for the first time after her opponent, Jennifer Brady, stopped playing because of an injured left foot.

The 24th-seeded Gauff, a 17-year-old based in Florida, took the opening set 6-1 before Brady retired from the match. The two players met for a hug.

Brady was seeded 13th and was the runner-up at the Australian Open in February and a semifinalist at the U.S. Open last year.

But she said she has been dealing with plantar fasciitis and a bone bruise in her foot and considered not even entering the French Open at all.

Against Gauff, Brady said, “I wasn’t even really running for balls, just because I was in so much pain. I wasn’t serving at full capacity.”

Gauff next faces No. 25 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia with a quarterfinal berth at stake.

Gauff has been as far as the fourth round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open but has never been past that stage at a Grand Slam tournament. She lost in the second round in her Roland Garros main-draw debut last year.

“Obviously, she’s an incredible talent,” the 26-year-old Brady said. “She’s so young. … She’s definitely continuing to climb the ranks, improve her game. She’s really good. Yeah, I wish her all the best.”

Gauff will clinch the fourth and final U.S. Olympic women’s spot if Sloane Stephens does not win the French Open. Serena WilliamsSofia Kenin and Brady already qualified.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier, Iga Swiatek closed out her latest French Open victory and raised a triumphant right fist. Rafael Nadal won less than half an hour later and celebrated with a left uppercut.

The two defending champions make for a potent one-two combination at Roland Garros, where both won going away to reach the fourth round.

Swiatek rallied from a break down in the opening set to beat Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 6-0. Nadal was unfazed at losing serve twice in a row in the second set and eliminated Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Nadal, 35, advanced to the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 50th time. He’s trying to add to his record 13 French Open crowns and seeks his 21st major title, which would break the men’s record he shares with Roger Federer.

As Nadal spoke to the crowd after the match, fans reminded the Spaniard of his title total by shouting “treize!” — 13 in French.

“Can you repeat that?” he responded in English with a smile.

Nadal will next play 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, who is seeded 18th.

“He’s young, he’s improving every week, he has big shots,” Nadal said. “I need to be solid. I need to be aggressive too. I need to make him play from tough positions. It’s the fourth round — you can’t expect an easy opponent.”

Nadal knows that from experience. Federer and Novak Djokovic are the only other men to reach the fourth round at 50 major events.

Federer moved into the fourth round of a Grand Slam for a record-extending 68th time after getting through a four-set test against 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer of Germany.

Federer won 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 7-5 in a match that ended after midnight in Paris and was played without spectators on Court Philippe Chatrier due to a coronavirus curfew.

Federer next plays Matteo Berrettini, but could withdraw from the tournament.

“I need to decide if I keep on playing or not or is it not too much risk at this moment to keep on pushing or is this just a perfect way to just take a rest,” said the 39-year-old whose focus is on Wimbledon that starts June 28.

Swiatek, 20, has won 20 consecutive sets at Roland Garros and that streak was in jeopardy when she trailed Kontaveit 4-2. The title holder dominated from there and lost only 12 points in the second set.

“It’s good to have matches like that, because it keeps you down to earth, and you have to be careful on every point,” Swiatek said. “I’m just happy that I’m able to play really solid in really important moments.”

The eighth-seeded pride of Poland next faces 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who has reached the round of 16 at a major event for the first time.

Kenin advanced to the fourth round for the third consecutive year by winning a seesaw all-American match against Jessica Pegula, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Kenin is the highest-seeded player left in the women’s draw at No. 4, and she has shaken a slump with her return to Roland Garros, where she was the runner-up to Swiatek in October.

“This whole year hasn’t been so great in terms of my tennis,” Kenin said. “I’ve had some early round exits. I’m just happy that I’m finally finding my rhythm and playing some good tennis again.”

The top-seeded Djokovic didn’t face a break point en route to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Ričardas Berankis.

Sinner beat Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 and was joined the round of 16 by another Italian 19-year-old, Lorenzo Musetti, who outlasted Marco Cecchinato — also from Italy — 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Kenin blew a 3-0 lead in the opening set against the No. 28-seeded Pegula, but then began stepping into the court to take charge of rallies, especially with a backhand that produced two dozen winners. She hit 48 winners overall to 18 for Pegula.

Kenin had 10 double faults and was broken five times but held her final four service games to close out the win. The 2020 Australian Open champion, who was sidelined by an appendectomy in February, improved to 10-8 this year.

“I’m happy it’s clicking during the French Open,” the 22-year-old Kenin said. “I love the court, I love the clay. It’s a good surface for me. My game is not where it was at the Australian Open in 2020 but we’re getting there.”

Stephens, who is ranked 59th and out of the top 50 for the first time since 2017, advanced by beating 18th-seeded Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5. Stephens, the runner-up in 2018, will next face Barbora Krejcikova, who upset fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2.

Djokovic advanced to the round of 16 at the French Open for the 12th consecutive year and said he made necessary adjustments on a cool, cloudy afternoon.

“Maybe for those watching it looked simple, but it wasn’t,” he told the crowd in French. “The conditions were different. How do you say in French … the bounce was lower. I think I coped well.”

Djokovic next faces Musetti, who is playing in his first Grand Slam event.

“He is a big challenge to me,” Djokovic said. “He will not have much to lose. I’m sure he’s going to come trying to play the tennis of his life.”

Jan-Lennard Struff, a 31-year-old German, matched his best Grand Slam effort by advancing to the fourth round when he beat 18-year-old qualifier Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

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