The 16-year-old Cori Gauff has won four out of seven matches since the season's restart, reaching the semi-final in Lexington. Cori suffered early losses in New York at Cincinnati and the US Open, heading to Europe and entering the Premier 5 event in Rome.
The American scored her first WTA victory on clay against Ons Jabeur, beating the more experienced rival 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 21 minutes. Cori hit seven double faults and got broken four times from as many chances offered to Jabeur, erasing that deficit with reliable performance on the return that saw her taking 60% of the points and six breaks from 13 opportunities.
Ons grabbed a break in the first game, fending off four break chances in game two to confirm an early lead. Gauff broke back in game four to level the score at 2-2, only to suffer another break a few minutes later and find herself 4-2 down.
Shifting into a higher gear, the American rattled off four straight games to take the opener 6-4, earning breaks in games eight and ten. They traded five breaks in a row in set number two, with Gauff securing three of those and crossing the finish line with a hold at 5-3.
Asked about Naomi Osaka, Cori said she was thrilled when the Japanese won the US Open, with her masks raising conversations in the tennis world about racial equality.
Cori Gauff scored first victory on clay against Ons Jabeur in Rome.
"I'm happy for the victory, especially after a couple of tough losses in New York.
Ons played a great match; she's a tricky rival because she changes the ball's pace. I knew it would be challenging and to beat her on clay is a positive sign for me. I tried to stay in the match while trailing 4-2 in the opener, knowing I could get back whenever I needed to.
I was familiar with her game, trying to expose her weaknesses and using my strengths. I learned a lot about myself as a player this summer, competing for the first time after a long break. I wasn't comfortable on the court in the opening matches, but it's fine now.
After the US Open, I had time to practice and prepare for the clay season. I'm in my best shape physically, and it wasn't hard to change the surface. I haven't played on clay in over a year, but I still feel quite comfortable.
I had some good results on clay in my junior days, and I'm pretty used to it. I go to Patrick Mouratoglou Tennis Academy a lot. I have been going there since I was ten, and I'm quite used to the red clay. Regarding Naomi, I'm super happy that she won and that she was able to raise awareness while she was competing.
I think that her masks raised conversations in the tennis world about racial equality. I think it's essential to use her platform, and I think she did a good job doing that. Big congratulations to her; she deserved it," Cori Gauff said.