Gauff’s extraordinary talent has been evident since she became the youngest player in history to reach the main draw at Wimbledon three years ago – beating Venus Williams and reaching the fourth round.
In the years that followed, she struggled with the pressure that came with that achievement.
“Obviously I believe in myself,” she said in her post-match interview. “Even last year, I think I was too focused on trying to meet other people’s expectations of me. Just enjoy life.
“No matter how good or bad my career is, I think I’m a great person, and that’s a message for all young players. Your results, or your work, or how much money you earn doesn’t matter to you. don’t define as a person. As long as you love yourself, who cares what other people think?”
The athleticism and power that made Gauff such a threat were on display again as she continued her perfect debut for this year’s French Open, in which she has yet to drop a set.
She will now face the world number one. 59′ Martina Trevisan on Thursday for a place in the final.
From the start of Tuesday’s match, Gauff constantly attacked from the baseline and broke her compatriot at the first opportunity.
It took Stephens four games to get on the scoreboard, but she did it in style, maneuvering Gauff down the left side of the field and capitalizing on open space with a game-winning backhand volley.
Stephens began to level off, and although Gauff continued to lead thanks to the early break, flickers of the talent that had propelled the 29-year-old to a US Open title and world number one. 3 appeared. A nonchalant pass and a cross forehand shot at an impossible angle sealed his service games.
Buoyed by this momentum, Stephens broke the young American and consolidated this break to equalize at 5-5.
However, three loose shots in his final service game of the set nullified Stephens’ comeback and Gauff won the first set 7-5.
Two breaks of serve were canceled at the start of the second set before Gauff held on and broke Stephens again to put himself within reach of the semi-final.
As the tension mounted, errors crept into Gauff’s game and – hampered by a series of double faults – she battled to win her service game, saving three break points to take a lead 4-1 after a wayward volley from Stephens relieved the pressure.
Once Gauff had won this match, the outcome seemed inevitable. However, a tendency to double fault came back to haunt the 18-year-old as she served for the win and was forced to wait longer for confirmation of the result.
The double fault proved contagious, however, and was indicative of Stephens’ inconsistency during the match, as a string of unforced errors allowed Gauff to wrap up victory with relative ease.
After reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open last year, when she was beaten by eventual champion Barbora Krejčíková, this year’s tournament is Gauff’s best performance at a Grand Slam in this day.