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SPORTS

Coco Gauff Returns to the French Open Semifinals by Defeating Ons Jabeur. Iga Swiatek Could Be Next

PARIS (AP) — Coco Gauff came back to defeat Ons Jabeur 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 at the French Open on Tuesday to reach the semifinals at a third consecutive Grand Slam tournament.

Gauff won her first major title at the U.S. Open in September, then made it to the final four at the Australian Open in January.

The 20-year-old American is seeded No. 3 at Roland Garros, where she was the runner-up to Iga Swiatek in 2022.

Gauff could get a rematch in the semifinals against the top-ranked Swiatek, who has won three of the past four titles in Paris.

Swiatek’s quarterfinal against 2023 Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova was scheduled for later Tuesday on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Jabeur’s mix of speeds and spins gave Gauff fits at times. And as well-known as Gauff is for her ability to cover the court and play defense, Jabeur managed to keep coming up with winners, finishing with 30 in all.

“She was playing really well the whole match. She was hitting a lot of winners on me, which is something I’m not used to against anybody,” Gauff said. “So today I was just trying to just be aggressive toward the end.”

Gauff pulled away to a 5-2 lead in the last set, then needed a trio of match points to close things out, acknowledging afterward that maybe she grew a little tight down the stretch. The last game was key, with Gauff needing to save a break point, then Jabeur dismissing one match point with a disguised drop shot that earned a roar from the stands that the 29-year-old Tunisian responded to by putting her right index finger to her ear.

But on Gauff’s next opportunity to seal the victory, Jabeur badly flubbed an overhead. Gauff smiled, then raised her arms and yelled.

With the crowd at the main stadium loudly supporting Jabeur at times, Gauff did not play badly in the opening set. But No. 8 seed Jabeur — a three-time major finalist — was superb, winning 17 of 18 first-serve points, never facing a single break point and accumulating a 12-5 edge in total winners.

When she delivered an ace at 114 mph (184 kph) to end the set, Jabeur nodded repeatedly.

“She’s a tough opponent and she’s well-loved on tour. I could tell by the crowd today — I know you guys wanted her to win. Honestly, whenever she’s not playing (me), I cheer for her, too,” Gauff said.

“Even though you guys were for Ons, I really had a lot of fun, even when I lost the first set and they were chanting when I was in the bathroom,” Gauff said about her trip off the court after the first set. “I was like, ‘This is just really fun, win or lose.’ It is.”

Gauff got going after that, raising her level and trying to gain the upper hand during lengthier exchanges. She put in 16 winners over the last two sets, while breaking serve four times.

“I know I have a lot of love here in Paris. Trust me, I know,” said Gauff, who won the French Open junior title at age 14. “So I really appreciate it, and hopefully you guys can help me make it through the next round.”

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By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer

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