Teenager Gauff books semi-final with straight sets win over Stephens

PARIS, May 31 (Reuters) - American teenager Coco Gauff powered past compatriot Sloane Stephens 7-5 6-2 on Tuesday to book a French Open semi-final spot in her biggest victory at a Grand Slam.

The 18-year-old, the youngest player left in the draw who was hit by a brief spell of nerves late in the game, will next play Italy's Martina Trevisan for a place in Saturday's final.

"I feel so happy right now. Words can't explain it. Last year in the quarters was a tough loss and that made me stronger for moments like today," 18th seed Gauff said after reaching her first semi-final at a major.

"Last time I played her (Stephens) I lost so I am happy it went differently today. I think it was a mental challenge today."

Gauff, the youngest female player to reach multiple Grand Slam quarter-finals since 2007 after also reaching the French Open last eight in 2021, stormed to a 3-0 lead in a one-sided start to the all-American encounter.

With Gauff forcing the 29-year-old Stephens to the net with a string of well-executed drop shots and holding serve confidently, she cruised to a 5-2 lead.

Stephens, U.S. Open champion in 2017 and finalist in Paris a year later, battled to get the breaks back and levelled at 5-5.

Gauff, who has not dropped a set in her run to last four, recovered just in time to win eight of the next nine points and bag the opening set.

Another break put her 3-1 up in the second but the teenager showed nerves when she doubled-faulted twice in the next game to give Stephens three break chances.

However, she wasted them all, including an easy volley to allow her opponent to go 4-1 up.

While Stephens may rue her missed chances throughout the match, Gauff managed to return almost everything her opponent threw at her.

Another lengthy rally ended with Stephens sinking a forehand into the net and Gauff going 5-1 up.

Instead of serving out the match she double faulted twice again to give her opponent a brief reprieve before winning it on Stephens' serve in the very next game.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.