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Coco Gauff Powers Past Jelena Ostapenko Into First US Open Semifinal

Photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA/US Open

NEW YORK—Jolly ranchers are the candy currency Coco Gauff and coach Brad Gilbert share.

Today, Gauff was in no mood for sweet treats.

A voracious Gauff tore through seven straight games, chewing up Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2 to charge into her maiden US Open semifinal.

The summer of Coco continues to flavorful notes in New York: Gauff scored her career-best 10th consecutive victory in her quickest victory of the tournament avenging her Australian Open defeat to Ostapenko last January.

The 19-year-old Gauff is the first American teenager to reach the US Open semifinals since Serena Williams in 2001.

“It feels great,” Gauff told ESPN’s Pam Shriver afterward. “I’m so happy. Last year I lost in the quarterfinal stage and I wanted to do better this year.

“Still have a long way to go, but I’m happy and I’m ready to get back to work for the next one.”

A red-hot Gauff has won 16 of her last 17 matches, including title runs in Washington, DC and Cincinnati, and will be the favorite in Thursday’s semifinal against either French Open finalist Karolina Muchova or 30th-seeded Sorana Cirstea.

It is Gauff’s second Grand Slam semifinal coming 15 months after her run to the 2022 Roland Garros final.

One round after Ostapenko obliterated Iga Swiatek in the final set of a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 triumph to dethrone the defending champion and end her 75-week run at world No. 1 in a night match, the hard-hitting Latvian wilted amid the sunny swelter on Ashe Stadium court.

The 20th-seeded Ostapenko struggled to land first serves, serving an unsightly 38 percent, and could not consistently find the court with her flat drives as the speedy Gauff leaked errors from the erratic Latvian. Ostapenko committed 36 errors—22 more errors than Gauff—and said the quick turnaround time sapped her strength.

“Today was not really good match from me,” Ostapenko said. “I think it’s really hard to recover from those night matches, because after beating world No. 1, I went to sleep at, like, 5:00 in the morning, and still, you sleep for, I don’t know, maybe like seven, eight hours, but you completely don’t recover.

“Yesterday the whole day I felt very low energy. I thought today I was, like, going to wake up and feel better. But honestly, I didn’t really feel much better.”

Gauff, who surged through the final six games stopping Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the fourth round, streaked through seven straight games scorching Ostapenko at the start today.

The first American teenager to reach successive US Open quarterfinals since Serena Williams in 2001, Gauff hit deep drives down the middle denying Ostapenko access to angles. Knowing how quickly the Latvian can heat up, Gauff kept up consistent pressure, converting six of seven break points and winning 20 of 28 points played on Ostapenko’s second serve.

“Honestly I didn’t feel comfortable at all the whole match,” Gauff said. “Even on the match points. I know the game she plays. She has the ability to come back no matter the scoreline. It’s really tough against her because you can’t really be aggressive.

“Most of the time I was just trying to get the ball deep. She’s a tough player she had a great tournament and I get along well with her off the court.”

On the steamiest day of the tournament, the Delray Beach-born baseliner thrived in the sweaty swelter with the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof open.

Exploiting a couple of forehand errors, Gauff broke to open. Working with coaches Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert, Gauff has tried amping up her first-serve pace and mix her spins and speeds on serve as well.

Slamming a 118 mph ace down the T, Gauff backed up the break at 15 for 2-0.

Muttering misgivings to her box between points, Ostapenko scattered nine errors through the first nine minutes of play surrendering serve again to fall behind love-3.

Moving fluidly and striking with clarity, Gauff won 16 of the first 20 points to go up 4-0 after just 14 minutes.

A heavier serve and her superior speed around the court helped Gauff stretch the lead. Racing down a drop shot that sat up, Gauff rolled a forehand pass down the line for 5-0.

Backing up her opponent with crackling serves, Gauff carved out a drop shot winner snatching a one-set lead after 20 minutes.

An out of sorts Ostapenko spit up 15 errors in the first set—13 more than Gauff—and her mood grew increasingly cranky as her deficit grew and the heat intensified.

Running through a forehand, Ostapenko pasted it into the middle of the net as Gauff converted her sixth break in seven opportunities, opening a 6-0, 5-2 lead after 59 minutes.

Sliding a serve wide brought Gauff a second match point. Ostapenko shot back a deep return to save it.

On her third match point, Gauff ended one of the longest rallies of the match dropping a forehand winner into the corner to conclude a 67-minute thrashing in style.