MEASURES Coco Gauff Took To Keep Her Rome Dreams Still Alive After Stunning Comeback Against Paula Badosa.

Coco Gauff

 

ROME, Italyβ€”Coco Gauff showed tremendous resilience at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, roaring back from a set down to defeat Paula Badosa, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1

 

Coco Gauff

The reigning US Open champion has struggled with serving woes for much of the clay-court season, but played clutch tennis when it counted to survive an inspired performance from the former world No. 2 in two hours and 27 minutes on Grandstand Arena.

Both women were looking for a strong result at the Foro Italico after middling starts to the clay swing, Badosa struggling with injury at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix while Gauff suffered a surprising defeat to countrywoman Madison Keys at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Gauff spoke of reaching out to Badosa during the latter’s injury struggles over the last 18 months; Badosa’s chronic back injury forced her to miss much of the 2023 season and fall out of the Top 100.

“I think we’re pretty friendly on tour,” Gauff said previewing the match on Saturday. “We aren’t close friends. We’re definitely in different stages. I feel like that’s a lot of me on tour. I think she’s 25 maybe, so five years’ age gap. We’re never going to be close friends, but I’m definitely friendly with her on tour. I always root for her.”

Gauff was coming off a topsy-turvy third-round encounter with Jacqueline Cristian, who won a 6-0 second set before Gauff came back to win in three. Playing in Rome without a bye, Badosa twice came back from a set down, upsetting No. 21 seed Emma Navarro and knocking out Diana Shnaider to book the rematch with Gauff.

Badosa, who recently revealed she had split with longtime boyfriend Stefanos Tsitsipas, led their head-to-head 3-1 and started stronger on Monday as the serving woes that have plagued Gauff for much of the spring returned. The Spaniard was soon up with a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve out the opening set. Though Gauff replied with a break of her own to even the set, Badosa navigated another long return game to reclaim the advantage and made no mistake in her second attempt to serve out the set, doing so at love.

Gauff twice led Badosa by a break in the second only for Badosa to claw back each time, seeming to put Gauff on the brink of defeat when she scored a crucial hold at 4-4. A much-needed serve hold put the pressure back on Badosa, who lost eight of the set’s final nine points to force a third set.

The pair exchanged breaks through a marathon opening two games, Gauff breaking back after drawing Badosa to net and thundering a backhand passing shot into the open court. The 20-year-old continued that momentum with a break lead of her own, rolling through the next five games to find herself serving with a double-break lead.

Despite 11 total double faults and 40 unforced errors, Gauff manged 35 winners and as she eased to match point on serve, converting as Badosa missed wide on a final forehand.

Up next for Gauff is No. 7 seed Zheng Qinwen, who scored a strong win over former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka earlier in the day; this will be their first meeting.