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Gauff: “Nothing you can do, so it’s frustrating”
Coco Gauff was logically very disappointed after losing against Jelena Ostapenko, despite admitting that her opponent was just too good.
Coco Gauff fought back the tears as long as she could but by the end of her press conference on Sunday, she couldn’t keep it in any longer. Of course, the American knew she fell against a better player that day and that Jelena Ostapenko could blast the whole Tour of the court on a good day. Yet, the loss was hurting. She played so well since the start of the year and, having reached her first Grand Slam final last year at Roland-Garros, she now of course longs for her first Grand Slam title.
Since losing that final in Paris, she has lost in the third round in Wimbledon and in the quarter-finals at the US Open: each time against super heavy hitters (Iga Swiatek, Amanda Anisimova, Caroline Garcia). So with this new loss against a very powerful player, maybe something is going to linger in Gauff’s brain that her game is too vulnerable against that type of player. There’s obviously something to work on there, but it’d be a pity to turn this into a dark horse kind of situation. Yes, she needs to get to another gear when facing these players, but she has that gear so it’s more a matter of getting to it than creating it from scratch.
She arrived in Melbourne with a title in Auckland under her belt, she then played great tennis until that fourth round: she had legitimate hopes of a deep run at this Australian Open. But the draw made her cross Ostapenko’s road on a day when the winners were flying without the unforced errors coming to cancel them. “Penko” in the zone? Absolute nightmare to play against.
“I worked really hard, and I felt really good coming into the tournament, and I still feel good. I still feel like I’ve improved a lot. But when you play a player like her and she plays really well, there’s nothing you can do. I feel like it was rough. So it’s a little bit frustrating on that part (tearing up)”.
With the way she covers the court, surely Gauff thought that she would be able to bring back one more ball again and again and that Ostapenko at some point will start to miss. Surely also she felt her own aggressive game style would at some point get the best out of Ostapenko’s footwork, and so she will miss.
But none of this happened: Ostapenko did not miss. And when she doesn’t miss, she just cannot be beaten. When in doubt about that, go back and have a look at her 2017 triumph at Roland-Garros, or at her run to the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2018.
Of course, Gauff knows all of this but when you’re one of the title contenders and you see all your hopes crashing against Ostapenko picking that day to be on fire: the frustration is real. “Jelena played really good tennis, and she played really aggressive. I feel like everything was working for her today. I tried my best in the moment to combat that. There were a couple of things I could have improved on, but overall I think she deserved to win today. In every match there is something to learn, and today I learned a lot.”
“You can’t really do anything”
One thing a top play cannot stand: not being in control and, worst, feeling there’s no way they can be in control. So for Gauff, it’s not only the loss: it’s the feeling that she had no control and couldn’t have any over the outcome. You’re a top player, you’re supposed to be able to solve every problem caused by a rival. You’re supposed to be able to beat anyone. But on Sunday, Gauff could not and that made as much damage as being now out of the tournament.
“I think every loss is somewhat in my control because I do feel like I’m a good player, but today she just played better. There were moments in the match where I was getting frustrated because I normally can problem solve, but today I feel like I didn’t have many answers to what she was doing. There were balls I was hitting deep, and she was hitting them on the line and hitting them back deep, like over and over again. It’s just one of those days that just didn’t go my way and went her way. I tried what I could. Like There are some things I probably could have improved on, but she played well. You can’t really do anything. I’m upset obviously, but I feel like I did everything I could at the moment, and I’ll probably have to rewatch and see what I can do better.” Gauff still has the double to focus on and use to put that loss away.