ROME (Reuters) – American teen Coco Gauff arrived in Rome on the heels of two early exits in New York and was glad to get her season back on track with a victory over Ons Jabeur at the Italian Open in her first WTA Tour main draw match on clay.
The 16-year-old made the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open and reached the same stage at Wimbledon last year but suffered a first-round exit at her home Grand Slam at the US Open two weeks ago.
That defeat came after she lost her opening match in the Western & Southern Open, which was also held in the bio-secure environment in New York due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’m definitely happy to get a win today, especially after a couple of tough losses back in New York,” Gauff told reporters after Tuesday’s (Sept 15) 6-4 6-3 win over Tunisian Jabeur.
“She’s a tricky player because she definitely changes the ball a little bit. I knew it was going to be tough, so to get a win over her on clay was really good.”
Australian Open quarter-finalist Jabeur had also lost to Gauff last month in the last-eight in Lexington. She reached the same stage at the Western & Southern Open before advancing to the third round at Flushing Meadows.
Gauff fell in the qualifying rounds of the French Open last year in her only Tour-level clay-court event but says she feels at home on the surface.
“I haven’t played on clay in over a year, but to be honest, I feel quite comfortable on clay,” said the world No. 53. “In my junior career, I had quite good results on clay and I go to Patrick Mouratoglou’s tennis academy a lot. I’m quite used to the red clay.”
The French Open, originally scheduled for May, was postponed to Sept 27-Oct 11 due to the pandemic.