Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek to meet in semifinals at Rome

Coco Gauff turned a marathon first set into a 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory over China’s Zheng Qinwen and a spot in the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Tuesday at Rome.

Gauff will next face the top-ranked player in the world, Poland’s Iga Swiatek, who earned an easy 6-1, 6-3 over Madison Keys in her own quarterfinal match.

Gauff, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, needed 71 minutes to take the opening set from No. 7 Qinwen for her first victory over a top-10 player this season in three tries.

Gauff broke Qinwen’s serve to take a 5-3 lead in the first set, but with Gauff serving to win the set, Qinwen broke back. Gauff had set point at 40-30 before Qinwen rallied.

Qinwen had a 3-2 lead in the opening set tiebreaker before Gauff took control by winning four consecutive points, the first two on Qinwen’s serve.

Gauff broke Qinwen’s serve in the opening game of the second set and rolled to the win from there.

“I bet on myself to continue to go big,” said Gauff, who won 80 percent (32 of 40) of her first-serve points.

“I know when I go big and my serve goes in, it’s dangerous. Even though this tournament I want to win, I’m trying to think long-term. I don’t want to lose the 120 (mph) serve by not going for it.”

She will need a top serving day when she faces the top-seed Swiatek, who finished off No. 18 Keys in 76 minutes while winning her 10th consecutive match.

Swiatek moved within two wins from winning in Spain and Italy back-to-back, something only Serena Williams accomplished, in 2013.

While Swiatek was able to break Keys’ serve four times, she saved all 10 of the break points she faced, improving to 36-4 on the year. She also improved to 75-10 on clay in her career.

“There were some tight games that could go kind of both ways,” Swiatek said. “I’m happy that I was really focused in important moments to break or to not give Maddie a break.”

Despite her overpowering serve, Keys had just a 2-1 advantage on aces, with 63 percent of her first-serve points won to 80 percent for Swiatek.

“She moves on it really well — like no other player,” Keys said. “She slides so well. It’s a tough situation, because you can’t really wrong-foot her.”

Swiatek also is closing in on her third title at the tournament in four years.

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