WATCH: Coco Gauff speaks to Tennis Channel after her Roland Garros quarterfinal win.

"I will say she probably hit her forehand the best that I've seen in a long time.” This was Coco Gauff, talking about Sloane Stephens last year at the US Open. Those comments came the same evening Gauff played Stephens for the first time, a match she lost 6-4, 6-2.

Today was their second meeting. We have seen enough of Gauff’s competitive temperament to know that the sting of that loss is ancient history. But the memory of how Stephens had controlled many rallies that night in New York was front and center as Gauff entered Court Philippe-Chatrier for this quarterfinal match.

Directing many a ball to Stephens’ weaker backhand was but one part of a masterful effort that earned 18-year-old Gauff a 7-5, 6-2 win and her first trip to a Grand Slam singles semifinal.

“I think obviously she's worked really hard to get to this position,” said Stephens. “And to make the semifinals of a Slam, she's obviously earned it and played some really good tennis.”

Said Gauff, “playing against Sloane US Open, I mean, that loss hurt a lot, but it definitely better prepared me for today. I knew going in she was going to probably go on a more consistent side, and which she did. I know her forehand when it's on it's on. So I think I was trying to do my best to push her back and then wait for my opportunity to step forward.”


Gauff moved into her first Grand Slam semifinal after winning "a full, complete match" over the 2018 Roland Garros runner-up.

Gauff moved into her first Grand Slam semifinal after winning "a full, complete match" over the 2018 Roland Garros runner-up.

The first major turning point came at 5-all in the first set. Stephens had rallied from 2-5 down, winning three straight games. The No. 18 seed had started so well, her forehand hit with high-quality margin, her backhand its customary laser, her movement smothering Stephens into one error after another.

Yet even as Gauff directed balls to the Stephens backhand, Stephens was able to find ways to maximize her tremendous forehand. An in-form Stephens is superb at withstanding power and then applying plenty of her own.

But at 5-all, the teenager regathered herself. She held at love, aided by an inside-in forehand winner—the kind of shot that reveals confidence—and then took the first three points on Stephens’ serve at 5-6. At 15-40, Gauff laced an inside-out backhand winner.

“I fight for every point,” said Gauff. “You know, if it doesn't go my way, then, you know, you gotta look at the match and figure out what I need to work on. I feel like a lot of my losses in the past were due to mental errors of just getting used to being on tour and getting used to playing these intense matches. I feel like now, really, mentally I'm in a great place. So I know if I do lose a match it's not going to be because of that.”

A second key moment came with Gauff serving at 3-1 in the second set. Ahead 30-love in that game, all appeared on-course. But then came a double-fault, one of three Gauff would serve in that game. Three times Stephens held break point, on one of them missing the easiest of forehand volleys.

On the fifth deuce, Gauff hit a down-the-line forehand, made a surprising dash forward and clipped an angled forehand volley. She’d win the next point and then break Stephens to go up 5-1, 30-love—only to serve two straight double-faults and lose that game. Speaking to Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim following the match, Gauff said, “I got a little nervous in that 5-1 game because I realized how close I was to the finish line.”


Up next, Gauff will take on Martina Trevisan, who beat her here in the 2020 second round in their only prior match.

Up next, Gauff will take on Martina Trevisan, who beat her here in the 2020 second round in their only prior match.

But quickly enough, Gauff went ahead love-40 and would close it out on her second match point.

“I think Coco played a good match,” said Stephens. “Obviously wasn't my best day, but I think she played a full, complete match and sometimes you just have those days and it was her time and that's really it.”

Also aiding Gauff’s cause is that she’s feeling more relaxed than ever during a major.

“I’m just enjoying life,” she told Wertheim. “Before I would just be so hyper-focused, I wouldn’t even walk around the city because I thought it had to be tennis, tennis, tennis.”

This year, though, Gauff has given herself permission to stroll or take a leisurely bike ride through Paris.

In Thursday’s semi she’ll take on Martina Trevisan, who in their only prior match, beat Gauff here in the second round back in 2020—4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

“Playing Trevisan, yeah, I remember that match pretty clearly,” said Gauff. “I threw in a lot of double faults. I think I was in double digits with double faults. I'm not going to do that this time around. And also, I mean, she's a tricky player to play on clay, a tricky lefty.”

As she did versus Stephens, expect Gauff to have learned from that loss and once again summon her hyper-focus.