ROME — Coco Gauff needed every ounce of her athletic talent to close out a big win at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The World No.3 was leading 7-6(4), 5-1 against No.7 Zheng Qinwen and was a point away from booking her spot in the semifinals to face No.1 Iga Swiatek.

With Zheng serving on match point, Gauff was pulled wide to her backhand return and started racing back to cover the middle the court. But she hit a floating return that should have been an easy put-away for Zheng, and as the Chinese star closed in on the ball, Gauff was at a dead sprint.

Instead of putting the ball away to prolong the match, Zheng mishit the ball and fired it directly into Gauff’s path. Thankfully, the reigning US Open champion was quick on her feet. Gauff lept to avoid getting hit and as the ball landed well long, her spot in Thursday’s semifinal was secure.

“Oh 100 percent [it was going to hit me],” Gauff said after the match. “I saw the ball and it came off her racquet so fast. I was completely running the other direction. I just tried to move out of the way because that would have been such a bad way to not win a match point. But I’m glad I didn’t get hit.

“I was trying to make it clear that I didn’t touch the ball. But I feel like as fast as it was going, it would have been obvious if I touched it.”


Leave a Reply