Coco Gauff, a 19-year-old American who has had an outstanding summer, will take on Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open on Tuesday.
The two have played twice before, with Ostapenko winning their most recent encounter, at the Australian Open in January. Ostapenko beat Gauff in straight sets in a fourth-round match. But in their first meeting, in 2019, Gauff defeated Ostapenko in three sets in the final of the Linz Open in Austria.
Gauff, who is seeded sixth, has the advantage of playing in her home country’s Grand Slam tournament and the added confidence from winning the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., and the Western & Southern Open in Ohio in the past month. But Ostapenko, seeded 20th, is also on a tear: She eliminated Iga Swiatek, the defending champion and world No. 1, on Sunday night.
Here’s what to know about the match.
How did they get here?
Gauff defeated Laura Siegemund, a tricky player from Germany, in the first round. Siegemund hit slices and drop shots, catching Gauff on her back foot, and won the first set. But Gauff won the match in three sets after playing more aggressively.
Gauff also defeated Mirra Andreeva, a 16-year-old from Russia; Elise Mertens of Belgium; and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who recently returned to professional tennis after retiring in 2020.
Ostapenko notably defeated Swiatek, who will lose her No. 1 ranking at the end of the Open, in a fourth-round match. Ostapenko is one of the few players who have beaten Swiatek consistently. Her win on Sunday was the fourth in a row against her.
On her way to the quarterfinals, Ostapenko also defeated Jasmine Paolini of Italy, Elina Avanesyan of Russia and Bernarda Pera, who was born in Croatia but represents the United States. Each of those matches went three sets.
Beware of Ostapenko’s aggression.
Ostapenko’s aggressive game is built on playing fast and with a lot of power. She credited that playing style for her ability to consistently defeat Swiatek, who appreciates having more time to set up her points.
Sometimes that aggressive game works against her, and she racks up unforced errors. She had 20 unforced errors in the match against Swiatek. Gauff recognizes that. On Sunday, she called Ostapenko a “striker,” but “hot or cold, to be honest.”
For Ostapenko’s part, she’s trying to be more selective of when she goes for her shots.
Keep an eye on Gauff’s net game.
Gauff, who is one of the fastest players on the tour, is no stranger to powerful shots, having the ability to track down balls and to hit them back with the same power, or more. Gauff responds well to powerful shots from the baseline, waiting until she has an opening to rush the net and put away points with overheads, swing volleys and volleys.
Gauff serves with precision, at times making it difficult for her opponents to put their rackets on the ball to return it well, as spectators saw in Gauff’s fourth-round match against Wozniacki.
But it is well known that Gauff’s forehand has been her weaker shot, and while she has been working hard to improve it with her new coach, Brad Gilbert, if an opponent can force errors on that wing, it can make a win for Gauff that much more difficult.
Gauff has been here before.
This is Gauff’s second time in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. She also made them last year, when she was defeated in straight sets by Caroline Garcia of France.
While this is also the second time Ostapenko has been in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, she made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year and has made deeper runs in other Grand Slam tournaments. She was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2018 and won the 2017 French Open.
There is excitement for the American men and women right now, and the crowd will be in Gauff’s corner. At least one American man will make it to the semifinals this year because Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton are playing each other in one of the quarterfinals. Taylor Fritz, who is playing Novak Djokovic, could make it two.
“It’s nice to just see the competitiveness between the countrymen and us all doing well,” Gauff said in an interview on Sunday. “It’s just really exciting tennis for America. I hope that fans are excited.”
Sorana Cirstea or Karolina Muchova await.
The winner of the match will play 30th-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania or 10th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, who are also playing on Tuesday.