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Preview: Iga Swiatek vs. Coco Gauff - prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Friday's Italian Open semi-final between Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

In a repeat of their first-ever meeting on the WTA Tour, world number one Iga Swiatek and third seed Coco Gauff clash in Friday's mouthwatering Italian Open semi-final.

The Pole eased past Madison Keys to make it to the last four, while her American foe also made relatively light work of Australian Open finalist Qinwen Zheng.

Match preview

Iga Swiatek poses with the trophy after winning the Madrid Open on May 4, 2024© Reuters

Only 12 days on from strolling to a 6-1 6-3 win over the USA's Keys during her run to Madrid Open stardom, Swiatek appropriately bested her 18th-seeded foe by an identical scoreline in Tuesday's Rome semi-final, needing just 76 minutes to be the thorn in her opponent's side again.

After progressing through her opening three battles with Bernarda Pera, Yulia Putintseva and Angelique Kerber without dropping a set, Swiatek was in a similarly merciless mood on Tuesday, taking four of the six break points presented to her all while magnificently saving each of the 10 that Keys brought up.

The American came out fighting in the second after ceding the opening set with a whimper, but it was a futile endeavour against the world number one and her impeccable defences, and Swiatek has now made it to the semi-finals of eight of her last nine Masters tournaments.

On the hunt for her third Rome crown after successes in 2021 and 2022, Swiatek has firmly outlined her credentials as the favourite for French Open glory in the coming weeks, and the 22-year-old boasts an astounding 80-0 record in WTA 1000 matches when winning the first set.

Before prioritising more Roland-Garros glory, Swiatek needs only win two more matches to join Serena Williams in an exclusive group; the American is the only women's singles player to ever win the Madrid and Italian Open titles in one season, doing so in 2013.

Coco Gauff reacts at the French Open on June 3, 2023© Reuters

Standing in Swiatek's way of another slice of Masters mastery is one of the heirs to the Williams throne, as Gauff emerged triumphant from a challenging first set against Australian Open runner-up Zheng in Tuesday's evening session before clicking into gear in a second-set beatdown.

With one hour and 48 minutes gone, a long Zheng forehand was heading straight for Gauff's body on match point, but the agile American managed to jump out of the way of her opponent's shot and gave a double thumbs-up after landing on her backside on the clay, having reached her second WTA 1000 semi-final of the season.

Gauff is always the first to admit that her serving game requires improvement - another six double faults on Tuesday is evidence of that - but she only faced one break point in the entire match, which she saved, and needed just three chances to break Zheng twice in the second.

Now guaranteed to match her best-ever result in Rome, having also progressed to the 2021 semi-finals, the third seed has a slight mental block to overcome on Friday, as she has suffered defeat in four of her previous five Masters semi-finals, including each of the last two.

Gauff's run at this year's Indian Wells Masters was brought to an end in the last four by Maria Sakkari, but should she defy the odds on Friday, one of Aryna Sabalenka, Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka or Danielle Collins will be waiting with the trophy on the line.

Tournament so far

Iga Swiatek:

First round: Bye
Second round: vs. Bernarda Pera 6-0 6-2
Third round: vs. Yulia Putintseva 6-3 6-4
Round of 16: vs. Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3
Quarter-final: vs. Madison Keys 6-1 6-3

Coco Gauff:

First round: Bye
Second round: vs. Magdalena Frech 6-3 6-3
Third round: vs. Jaqueline Cristian 6-1 0-6 6-3
Round of 16: vs. Paula Badosa 5-7 6-4 6-1
Quarter-final: vs. Zheng Qinwen 7-6[4] 6-1

Head To Head

WTA Finals (2023) - Round Robin: Swiatek wins 6-0 7-5
China Open (2023) - Semi-finals: Swiatek wins 6-2 6-3
Cincinnati Open (2023) - Semi-finals: Gauff wins 7-6[2] 3-6 6-4
French Open (2023) - Quarter-finals: Swiatek wins 6-4 6-2
Dubai Tennis Championships (2023) - Semi-finals: Swiatek wins 6-4 6-2
WTA Finals (2022) - Round Robin: Swiatek wins 6-3 6-0
San Diego Open (2022) - Quarter-finals: Swiatek wins 6-0 6-3
French Open (2022) - Final: Swiatek wins 6-1 6-3
Miami Open (2022) - Last 16: Swiatek wins 6-3 6-1
Italian Open (2021) - Semi-finals: Swiatek wins 7-6[3] 6-3

Despite only possessing a combined age of 42, many chapters have already been written in the Swiatek-Gauff rivalry, which coincidentally began with an Italian Open semi-final showdown three years ago.

On that occasion, the Pole prevailed in straight sets in what has become the regular theme in her meetings with the 20-year-old; she has beaten Gauff nine times out of 10 without dropping a set on the WTA Tour, most memorably in the final of the 2022 French Open.

The last two meetings in Beijing and the WTA Finals last year also went Swiatek's way, and Gauff's only success versus the 22-year-old came in Cincinnati last year - even then she had to navigate a first-set tiebreaker and lost the second to the world number one.

SM words green background

We say: Swiatek to win in three sets

Few foes can forestall Swiatek's title bids on clay and live to tell the tale, although the Pole well and truly came under the cosh on serve at various points in her battle with Keys, relying on her exceptional defence to bail her out of trouble.

For that reason, we can envisage a fired-up Gauff ending her streak of straight-sets losses to the world number one, but that should be the only small victory for the American to enjoy as Swiatek marches on to the championship match.

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