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Tennis-Gauff on a roll, but keeping her guard up

PARIS: Eleven former French Open junior champions began in the women's draw this year and three of them have reached the last 16.

None of that list which includes the likes of Elina Svitolina and Belina Bencic, have gone on to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup, nor any Grand Slam title for that matter.

But in reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros on her second main draw appearance, American 17-year-old Coco Gauff is offering further evidence that she can emulate the likes of Simona Halep and Justine Henin and convert a junior title into one of the game's four big prizes.

Gauff, who won the girls' title in 2018, is yet to drop a set so far at Roland Garros this year and will move into the second week brimming with confidence after requiring only 23 minutes on Saturday to get past Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady who retired hurt.

Gauff made only one unforced error in a one-sided 6-1 set and while Brady was clearly hampered, Gauff was ruthlessly focussed - a trait she says is vital when switching to the pro ranks.

"Every match you have to give your all, 100per cent," Gauff, who stunned the world by reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon aged 15, having come through qualifying in 2019, told reporters.

"I have a couple of my friends who are starting that transition from juniors to pro and I would say the biggest thing is just the pace of the ball and the competitiveness, because you have to compete for every point.

"On the pro tour, there are not many matches where players are going to check out when they are 6-2 3-0 down. I feel on edge until the last point is played. You can't let your guard down because everybody here wants to win."

Gauff faces tricky Tunisian Ons Jabeur for a place in her first Grand Slam quarter-final - another former junior champion on the red Parisian clay dust.

With so many big names either having lost, withdrawn or unable to play at the French Open, excitement is mounting for Gauff's chances of going deep into the second week.

And with the likes of Ukraine's 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk also into the last 16 of the women's draw and Italian 19-year-olds Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti into the last 16 of the men's draw, Gauff says it's proof of exciting times for tennis.

"I think for fans it's probably exciting, because

it's more like, especially after COVID, a lot of players are starting to retire," she said. "So I think for the fan perspective at least from what people, my family, think it's

interesting how this new generation of tennis players is coming.

"On the guys' side, I notice we have a lot of guys I played in the same tournaments with starting to do well, like Musetti and the Spanish player, Carlos (Alcaraz), I don't know how to pronounce his last name.

"I played juniors with them. So it's kind of cool to see us all doing well. Being a part of it is exciting. I hope for you guys it's fun to watch."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Source: Reuters

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