Coco Gauff clinched the fourth and final U.S. Olympic women’s singles spot and, should she want to go to Tokyo, is set to become the youngest Olympic tennis player since 2000.
Gauff, 17, qualified after countrywoman Sloane Stephens lost in the fourth round of the French Open on Monday.
Later Monday, Gauff won her own French Open fourth-round match — 6-3, 6-1 over Tunisian Ons Jabeur — to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, who at Roland Garros became the youngest Grand Slam singles seed since Czech Nicole Vaidisova in 2006, is now the youngest Grand Slam quarterfinalist since Vaidisova in 2006.
“This has been the most consistent tennis I have played at this level,” said Gauff, who broke out at age 15 by reaching the Wimbledon fourth round in 2019, then made the 2020 Australian Open fourth round, beating Naomi Osaka. “Hopefully I can keep that going.”
Gauff is one of a record six first-time Grand Slam women’s quarterfinalists in the draw. She gets 33rd-ranked Czech Barbora Krejčíková next.
Novak Djokovic rallied from a two-set deficit to win for the fifth time in his career. He beat 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who retired with an injury two games from defeat in the fourth round.
Musetti took a medical timeout after the fourth set, briefly left the court, and conceded after losing the next four games. The score was 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0. Djokovic lost only 10 points in the third set and four in the fourth, and won the final 13 games.
Seeded No. 1, Djokovic remained in contention for his second French Open title, and his 19th at a Grand Slam. He improved to 34-10 in five-setters.
The Serb advanced to the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the 15th time. He’ll next play another Italian, No. 9-seeded Matteo Berrettini, who advanced when Roger Federer withdrew.
Gauff was far behind in Olympic qualifying when the Tokyo Games were postponed in March 2020, but she’s been consistently strong this year, especially in the clay season. Gauff overtook Madison Keys, Alison Riske and Jessica Pegula in recent weeks to claim the fourth Olympic spot.
Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams and Jennifer Brady previously clinched the first three U.S. spots. Kenin and Brady confirmed this spring that they plan to play in Tokyo. Williams said last month that she hadn’t decided whether she will play.
If Williams declines, either Pegula or Riske will be next in line, depending on how far Riske goes in a grass-court tournament this week.
The U.S. Tennis Association can add up to two more women who can play doubles and mixed doubles in Rio.
The U.S.’ highest-ranked doubles players are Nicole Melichar (ninth in the world) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (No. 16). Venus Williams, the most decorated Olympic tennis player in history with five medals and four golds, could also be a candidate.
Gauff is set to become the youngest Olympic tennis player since 2000, when Mario Ancic competed at 16 and Jelena Dokic at 17, according to Olympedia.org. She would be the second-youngest U.S. Olympic tennis player ever after 16-year-old Jennfier Capriati, who took gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Gauff said in May she’s pleased with the progress made since her breakout Wimbledon run nearly two years ago. Before that tournament, she was the 37th-highest-ranked American just starting on a senior-level career.
“During that time people were saying, it’s a fluke, it will never happen again,” Gauff said in May. “I think I’ve proved all those people wrong. I’m going to continue to prove them wrong.”
Later Monday, defending champion Rafael Nadal beat Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals and extend his streak of sets won at Roland Garros to 35.
The 18th-seeded Sinner had a chance to become the first player since Dominic Thiem in the 2019 final to take a set off Nadal in Paris.
But when serving for the first set at 5-4, the Italian was broken at love. He then lost the next six games to trail 4-0 in the second set.
Nadal won the next two sets to clinch his 12th title here, won all 21 sets last year as he added No. 13 and has yet to drop a set this year.
The third-seeded Spaniard faces No. 10 Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals, having beaten the Argentine in the semifinals last year.
Sofia Kenin lost in the fourth round to Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-1, 6-3.
At No. 4, Kenin was the highest-seeded player left in the tournament. She was the runner-up at Roland Garros last October, and was seeking her second major title.
Sakkari, seeded 17th, advanced to her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal and earned her sixth win against a top-20 player this year.
Kenin lost serve six times and had 32 unforced errors to 15 for the steady Sakkari.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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