First Top 10 win; first WTA semifinal: Coco Gauff tops Bertens in Linz

First Top 10 win; first WTA semifinal: Coco Gauff tops Bertens in Linz

The 15-year-old beat the heavy-hitting Dutchwoman in straight sets, and will face Andrea Petkovic in the semifinals.

Linz and Luxembourg are never going to be confused with Wimbledon and the US Open. But the way Coco Gauff is playing right now, we may come to remember all four of these tournaments, rather than just the two majors, when we recall the season Gauff arrived on the world tennis scene.

A lucky loser in Linz, Gauff has now won three main-draw matches—the latest a 7-6 (1), 6-4 upset of top seed Kiki Bertens—to reach her first WTA semifinal, and to secure a spot inside the Top 100 for the first time. There are only five other teenagers in the Top 100: No. 5 Bianca Andreescu (19), No. 23 Dayana Yastremska (19), No. 28 Amanda Anisimova (18), No. 60 Iga Swiatek (18), No. 88 Anastasia Potapova (18).

Youth was most certainly served on Friday: in Shanghai, 21-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22-year-old Alexander Zverev and the old guys, 23-year-olds Daniil Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini, reached the semifinals of the indoor Masters event (at the expense of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem). But it doesn’t get younger, or much better, than Gauff, the transcendent 15-year-old who is taking advantage of every opportunity she’s received this year.

At Wimbledon, she reached the fourth round. In D.C., she lost early in singles, but won in doubles. And she’s followed up her third-round run at the US Open with a deep run in Linz. Thanks to some high-profile withdrawals, she’ll compete next week in Luxembourg. And thanks to her play this season, she’ll almost certainly be above the cut line for main-draw entrance into the Australian Open.

But let’s stay in Linz for now. While the tournament hasn’t been easy to monitor, you can tell from Gauff’s comportment in one of her post-match press conferences (streamed on Facebook Live) that she remains the confident yet measured player we’ve seen all season, and haven’t seen since she was undone in a one-sided match against Naomi Osaka in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The spotlight couldn’t be more different right now—the live stream, from Wednesday had just 316 views as of this morning—but Gauff is treating every match and every tournament with a uniform approach.

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There was some concern that Gauff’s lack of tour-level play—enforced by the so-called “Capriati Rule”—would hinder the wunderkind’s development. But it may have just caused Gauff to focus that much harder on the chances she’s been given.

“My dad said he saw improvement since the US Open,” Gauff said on Wednesday. “Just continue to use these matches to improve. Right now it’s all about matches for me, just because I don’t have that many under my belt.”

Against Bertens, one of the tour’s best servers, Gauff displayed the patience needed to combat a heavy hitter, and the opportunism needed to take advantage of openings when they came. Gauff saved both break points she faced in the match, and when Bertens failed to land her powerful first serve, the American took advantage: she won a full 50 percent of second-serve return points.

In all, Gauff won 70 percent of her service points, compared to Bertens’ 64—a tremendous ratio for a player whose serve, while effective, has plenty of room to improve.

In her next match, Gauff will face Andrea Petkovic, who has cruised through the draw, and also conducted a Facebook Live press conference. There was talk of cookies, but nothing of Coco—her match hadn’t yet been played. Still, as with all things Petkovic, it’s worth your time: