Coco Gauff loves clay. Really.

Also, look a little deeper and clay can give Gauff as much benefit as she gets out of it. At 5-foot-9, Gauff is about the average height...


Also, look a little deeper and clay can give Gauff as much benefit as she gets out of it. At 5-foot-9, Gauff is about the average height of top players these days, but she has long legs. This can help her cover a lot of ground in a few quick steps, but it can make balls that sit low on grass and hard courts a little more difficult for her.

If there was a common thread running through Gauff’s first three matches, it was how often she was well placed. The balls hit the clay and bounce right into her strike zone, giving her a series of belt-high fastballs she can play on, while taking advantage of the extra split second the clay gives her to put her feet or slide into position.

Always aggressive and on the hunt for forehands, she will inevitably make her share of mistakes, but so far she has hit more winners than unforced errors, which is always a good sign for any player. She also rarely appeared unbalanced.

“I really like sliding,” she said. “I think it helps me recover faster after I reach the ball. Then also, I mean, I play pretty hard on my forehand, so I think the clay bounces the ball even higher.

For her part, Anisimova, 20, also spent most of her childhood in Florida, but she said she became more comfortable on clay largely by playing numerous junior tournaments in the Latin American countries, where red clay is also much more common than her. is in the United States.

Anisimova is a dangerous returner, capable of punishing slower serves, especially with her near-death backhand. She also knows that her footwork and movement may be the weakest part of her still-developing game, and longer points on clay inevitably require her to cover more ground. Clay makes his weakness a little less weak.

“It gives me more time,” she said of clay after her victory over Muchova. “Hard courts can sometimes be a bit too fast.”

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