Coco Gauff has pierced through the public’s increasingly flittering attention, and at age 18 finds herself on the brink of breaking through as a knowable, marketable superstar. This is exactly what tennis needs. With the retirement of Serena Williams and Roger Federer– and with Naomi Osaka not playing much anymore– Gauff rising to household-name status would be a major boost to the sport.
But she’s not quite there yet.
Gauff needs a few more pieces to complete the bankable superstar puzzle, and one of them involves beating the number one player in the world– a woman whose marketing potential substantially trails Gauff’s.
Three-time Grand Slam Champion Iga Swiatek has yet to reach that golden status of marketability. There are a few reasons for this, but suffice it to say, if she continues to win Grand Slams and dominate, the general public will begin to know her name. Winning solves everything.
Which brings us back to Gauff. Her tennis trajectory has been a measured and steady rise. If she were to win one or more Grand Slams, she’s gold-plated. But to do that, Gauff is probably going to need to get through Swiatek, and as of right now, she’s not close.
Simply put: Coco Gauff needs a new strategy to beat Iga Swiatek.
There’s no time like the present to try something new, as Gauff and Swiatek find themselves in the same group at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, TX this week. They will meet in the round robin part of the tournament and have the potential to meet again if they both advance out of the group stage. Now is the time for Gauff to develop a new game plan or at the very least, to gather information to take into 2023.
Gauff Swiatek H2H
Gauff and Switaek have played 4 times–all in the last 18 months– and Swiatek leads the head-to-head 4-0. It hasn’t been pretty for the American, who has yet to take a set off the Polish World #1. Here are the results:
San Diego 2022: 6-0, 6-2 Swiatek
Roland Garros 2022: 6-1, 6-3 Swiatek
Miami 2022: 6-3, 6-1 Swiatek
Rome 2021: 7-6, 6-3 Swiatek
Gauff’s results are getting worse as Swiatek builds confidence and dominance on a variety of surfaces.
What Gauff Needs To Do vs Swiatek
To beat Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff must analyze how the Polish star is winning points. It begins with the serve and return. The vast majority of points in tennis are played in under 4 shots, and this matchup is no exception.
Gauff has statistically one of the best first serves in women’s tennis. Her speeds are capable of topping 125 mph. It’s a powerful weapon she can use to pummel her opponents or to set up her formidable forehand. But it’s not working against Swiatek. Why?
On the hard courts of San Diego, Gauff put in play 71% of her first serves, but only won 50% of her first serve points. Since she only double faulted twice and only tallied 2 aces, it’s a clear indicator she’s not going for enough on her first serve. The previous two Gauff – Swiatek matches yielded similar numbers. Only in the first-ever meeting between the two– which was by far the closest and the only one Gauff had a shot to win– did Coco reach 67% of first serve points won. While not stellar, that percentage is more in line with the standard of excellence for good servers on tour.
Secondly, Gauff needs to attack Swiatek’s first serve more aggressively. Serve is the one area of Switek’s game that is vulnerable. Since Swiatek has one of the best forehands in tennis right now, you don’t want to give her the opportunity to hit her forehand comfortably. Take that out of her hands by returning aggressively to her backhand or by making her hit an off-balance forehand at least. An 81% first serve winning percentage by Swiatek in San Diego? With that serve? It’s far too high! Gauff can do more with her returns.
If Coco Gauff is to ascend to tennis superstardom, she must first solve Iga Swiatek. That very prime opportunity presents itself this week at the WTA Finals.