PARIS – Unoccupied Barbora Kreichikova reached her first semifinal of the Grand Slam, returning from an early deficit and defeating 17-year-old Coco Gaff 7-6 (6), 6-3 at the French Open on Wednesday.
Gauff led 3-0 at the start, then 5-3, holding a total of five opening points, but failed to convert any.
Kreichikova took advantage, grabbing this set, taking the last four points of the tiebreak. She then scored 15 consecutive points during one stretch on the way to the 5-0 edge in the second set.
Closing the most important win of her career in singles, however, was not easy: Kreichikova needed six match points to do so, raising her hands above her head when she finally won, when Gauff sent a forehand wide.
Krejcikova is a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic who has won two Grand Slam doubles titles, but has only played in her fifth major singles tournament and only reached the fourth round once before. She is currently ranked at the top of her career in 33rd place and in a 1
She finished nine games for the 24th Florida-based Gauff winner and was the youngest quarterfinalist at the 2006 French Open. Gauf’s 41 unforced errors included seven double faults – and after one she distorted the racket its three times against the ground.
On Thursday, Krejcikova will face either defending champion Iga Suatek of Poland or number 17 Maria Sakari of Greece, who was due to play in the last match of the women’s quarterfinals. The other semifinal is number 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia against undefeated Tamara Zidanshek of Slovenia.
Gauff vs. Kreichikova started late in the morning with temperatures in the low 70s Fahrenheit (low 20s Celsius), blue skies and no wind.
After the number of fans at the main stadium with 15,000 seats was limited to 1,000 for each of the first 10 days of the tournament due to the restrictions of COVID-19, this limit was increased to 5,000 on Wednesday. And those present were noisily pulling Gauff, who took the stage at Wimbledon two years ago, reaching the fourth round.
The shouts of “Alez, Coco!” (Let’s go, Coco!) Greeted her winners. A loudly encouraging crack preceded her service games.
And Gauff treated the start of those supporters great, leading 3-0 after a dozen minutes, thanks in part to winning the first three points, which lasted at least 10 shots and two of Kreichikova’s eight double faults.
The contrast was striking when Kreichikova retreated to pull even at 3-all, when only a few polite applause was heard.
Gauff served for the starting set at 5-3 and was on the verge of taking it, but pushed the backhand for a long time. There was a double fault and a net backhand, allowing Kreichikova to break through.
Gauff had two more set points as he grew 6-5 and came back, but in the first she missed a backhand, and in the second, Kreichikova got a backhand winner.
Gauf had two more chances to grab this set in the tiebreak when the American took a 6-4 lead. Again, Kreichikova coped with the task, erasing both by waving a pair of forehand winners in the waist, then used another winner from that wing to take the set.