ROME — World No.3 Coco Gauff is feeling good off the ground at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The 20-year-old American opened her Rome campaign on Thursday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Poland’s Magdalena Frech in the second round.

Before the tournament, Gauff was asked what she would consider a successful result over the next two weeks in Rome. Not surprisingly, she zeroed in on her serve, which has been her achilles heel since the clay season began. In her five clay-court matches before Rome, she averaged 9.4 double faults per outing.

“I feel like the other parts of my game are improving in the right direction,” Gauff said. “I feel like that’s the part that if I can work that through, I think it will set me up for a very good Roland Garros.

“Other than that, I feel like I’m returning well, hitting off the ground well. For me, if I can get that part well, I can do well.”

With coaches Brad Gilbert and Jean-Cristophe Faurel, Gauff is working on small technical changes to her serve. As with any technical change, there will be growing pains, which is why Gauff hasn’t panicked.

“Brad came to France with me, so it’s been about a week probably since he’s been here,” Gauff said. “[We’re working on] just being aggressive with the serve, playing higher on the second serve. Just being aggressive overall, more aggressive in general.”

Facing Frech in her Rome opener, Gauff struck 28 winners and 25 unforced errors. Nine of those errors were double faults. Her elite defending held Frech to just 13 winners.

The numbers back up Gauff’s assessment. Off the ground, she has little to worry about. She remains one of the toughest players to hit through, and notching nearly 30 winners in a straight-set win on clay means she’s playing with a more aggressive mindset. That’s precisely what she needs if she hopes to go one better than her run to her first Roland Garros final two years ago.

“I think last week, even though I lost 6-4 in the third, [I hit] like 14 double-faults,” Gauff said. “This is like four or five games.

“I feel if I’m still close in these matches against Maddie [Keys]who is like a top player, I think [if] I just fix that detail, it will save me, and maybe those matches would turn into winning in straight sets instead of losing in three sets.”


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