A week after Coco Gauff was born in Delray Beach, Florida, Kaia Kanepi played an ITF $50,000 event in St. Petersburg. Seeded No. 1, she lost her second match to Ivana Lisjak in straight sets.
That was in 2004, and Kanepi, an 18-year-old on the rise, would finish the year ranked 226th among WTA players.
On Friday, Gauff, aged 18, the youngest player left in the draw, faces Kanepi in a spectacle for the ages, a third-round match that would send one of them to the second week of Roland Garros. Kanepi, 36, was the oldest player to enter this year’s draw and is more than twice Gauff’s age. She turns 37 in a few weeks.
Gauff, the No.18-seeded American, was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, losing to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova, while Kanepi reached the quarterfinals in 2008 and, a decade ago, in 2012. With the draw open, it all seems possible. . The top six seeds in the bottom half have already left: No.2 (Krejcikova), No.4 (Maria Sakkari), No.5 (Anett Kontaveit), No.6 (Ons Jabeur), No.10 (Garbiñe Muguruza) and No.12 (Emma Raducanu).
“I’m more happy with my movement and being able to create depth and those opportunities to get short balls,” Gauff told reporters Wednesday. “I think that helped me a lot today. yes last time [versus Kanepi] It was a close game and I was able to pull it off. I know it’s going to be a pretty tough game.”
Couldn’t have been closer. In his only meeting to date, last year in Parma, Italy, Gauff escaped 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) en route to his second career title.
Estonian Kanepi defeated Muguruza in the first round and looks to collect her 20the Grand Slam victory against a seed in the first three rounds. Among active players, only Serena and Venus Williams (29 and 22, respectively) and Victoria Azarenka (21) have more.
Gauff, who won his first two matches in straight sets, is 16-10 this year and is ranked 23rd, exactly 23 places ahead of Kanepi.
No.23 Jil Teichmann over No.15 Victoria Azarenka: The only previous match was against Azarenka, 6-1, 6-2, at this year’s Australian Open. But while Azarenka is a two-time champion in Melbourne, she is 7-6 at Roland Garros, with her best streak coming nine years ago when she reached the semifinals. This is only the second French Open for Teichmann, the 24-year-old Swiss, who has already won 17 matches in 2022 and is coming off a quarter-final appearance in Rome and a semi-final appearance in Madrid.
by the numbers
Angelique Kerber has now won 118 Grand Slam matches, but only 19 of them have been at Roland Garros. Her winning percentage at the French Open, while respectable at .576, is well below her overall mark of .690. That could explain why the 34-year-old won the other three majors but only advanced to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, in 2012 and 2018.
When the 21st seed meets Aliaksandra Sasnovich, she will be the overwhelming sentimental favourite. They met just nine days ago in the round of 16 in Strasbourg, with Kerber winning 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 en route to her fourth career clay title. Kerber saved two match points in a first round victory against Magdalena Frech. Sasnovich, whose previous record in Paris was five trips to the second round, had never made it this far. After losing her first few matches in Charleston and Madrid, she qualified and won a main draw match in both Rome and Strasbourg.
“Everyone knows that clay is not my favorite surface,” Kerber told reporters after defeating French wildcard Elsa Jacquemot 6-1, 7-6(2). “For me this year I just try to play every game and not look too far into the future and just try to keep up. Of course it’s not an easy tournament for me when you look back. But I’m not looking back at the moment, just trying to be in the moment.”
And finally …
No.27 Amanda Anisimova made headlines with a first-round win against four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, but Friday’s opponent Karolina Muchova also has a penchant for big wins.
The 25-year-old Czech Republic player previously defeated No.2-ranked Osaka in Madrid in 2021, No.1 Ashleigh Barty at the 2021 Australian Open and No.3 Karolina Pliskova three years ago at Wimbledon; in fact, she is 4 years old. -0 against opponents ranked inside the Top 3. Muchova, a relatively late developer like her compatriot Krejcikova, has been to the semifinals of the Australian Open, the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the US Open, all in the last few years. two years. .
These two have never met.