Coco Gauff in tears as French Open storm erupts after Iga Swiatek controversy

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Coco Gauff was left close to tears following a controversial refereeing incident during her loss to unstoppable world number one Iga Swiatek in the semifinals of the French Open on Friday morning.

The Polish star has now won 20 matches in a row on the Paris clay court and is aiming for her third consecutive Grand Slam title.

Swiatek will face 12th seed Jasmine Paolini in the final after the Italian ended the run of 17-year-old Russian sensation Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1 to reach her first Grand Slam final at the age of 28.

Paolini faces a daunting task as Swiatek has outshone all opponents after surviving a major scare against Naomi Osaka in the second round, dropping just one set in the entire tournament.

She continued her winning streak against Gauff with a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the semifinals, but the result was not without drama.

Swiatek only managed ten winners, an unspectacular performance given her high standards, while US Open champion Gauff made 39 unforced errors and had to hold back her tears in the second set.

The young player was already leading 2-1 on serve when she became embroiled in a heated exchange with umpire Aurélie Tourte over the timing of a line decision and exclaimed: “It’s a Grand Slam semi-final, you know the rules of the game.”

The incident occurred when the umpire disallowed an out on a Swiatek serve. Gauff was unable to return the serve and the point was awarded to Swiatek. Gauff argued with the umpire that Swiatek should be forced to retry her serve because Gauff’s return had been compromised by the late non-decision.

This was the exchange, according to the New York Post.

Gauff: “I didn’t even complete my backswing. He predicted it before I hit it. Can you ask him?”

Cake: “We can’t ask him.”

Gauff: “They boo because I’m wrong… I have the right to end my swing.”

Cake: “For me it had no impact on the shot.”

Gauff: “This is the second time this has happened. It’s a Grand Slam semifinal. Know the rules of the game.”

An emotional Gauff appeared to burst into tears upon returning to the baseline, but was able to recover and break Swiatek, taking a 3-1 lead in the set.

Swiatek remained calm throughout the exchange and some tennis commentators criticized her for not speaking out in favor of Gauff.

One tennis fan posted: “Iga Swiatek. She has no sporting spirit whatsoever. Yuck.”

Gauff said in her post-match press conference that video playback technology in sports needs to be improved to ensure incidents like this do not happen.

“I think it’s almost ridiculous now that we don’t have it,” Gauff said.

This perceived injustice helped the American to improve her game for a short time. After a long rally, she managed her first break of the match and led 3-1, but was immediately thrown back.

From then on, there could only be one outcome, as Swiatek won four games in a row and took complete control.

Gauff, who will rise to second in the world rankings next week, has now lost 11 of her 12 matches against Swiatek, all in straight sets.

The world number one is just one match away from becoming the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to win the tournament in three consecutive years after a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

“Something has changed, I’ve just gotten more used to the court and it’s not easy to play the first matches at a Grand Slam because the atmosphere is very different from other tournaments,” she added.

“And against Noami it was difficult to get into the game because she just went for it… I improved my instincts and gained confidence.”

The Pole’s record at Roland Garros is currently an incredible 34-2, putting him on par with Rafael Nadal, who has won the tournament 14 times.

“We will see in 14 years whether the journey is similar. That is of course very nice for me,” said Swiatek.

“I would never expect anyone to compare me to Rafa because for me he is above all and an absolute legend.

“We’ll see in a few years, but I’m proud of myself for playing consistently here and for being mentioned in the same breath as Rafa. That’s cool.”

The number one seed Swiatek could become only the fourth woman after Henin, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf to win four Roland Garros titles in the Open Era.

She is also on course to follow Serena Williams as the only woman to win the triple of French Open, Madrid Open and Rome Open titles in the same year.

Swiatek has won her two previous encounters with Paolini.

— with AFP

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