From early on, Garcia played high-stakes tennis and put strokes where she wanted, sometimes right at Gauff’s feet, sometimes well out of reach. In contrast to the early success Gauff, still just 18, has experienced, it’s been a long journey for Garcia, who now gets to play in the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career at age 28.
The 17th-seeded Garcia took charge at the start and never relented in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the 12th-seeded Gauff at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I just go for my shots,” Garcia said, “even when I’m stressed.”
She had lost both of her two previous matches against Gauff, who was the runner-up at the French Open in June, but was by far the better player this time.
“Her level was great and I knew it was going to be great coming in, and I feel like I didn’t play at the level I needed to come out with the win today — but overall I’m super proud of myself for this tournament,” Gauff said. “But I’m hungry for more, so maybe next year.”
Garcia, who is from France, hasn’t ceded a set at Flushing Meadows so far this year and stretched her winning streak to 13 matches overall, solidifying her status as someone playing as well as anyone in women’s tennis at the moment.
She finished last season ranked 74th, but now is projected to rise into the top 10 next week.
“The last couple of months,” Garcia said, “I feel healthy again.”
She will face Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur of Tunisia on Thursday with a berth in the final at stake.
“I’m looking forward to the next challenge and what I can achieve,” Garcia said.
Jabeur became the first woman representing an African nation to make the semifinals at the US Open during the professional era with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over the player who beat Serena Williams in the third round, Ajla Tomljanovic.
Jabeur said her run to the title match at the All England Club allowed her to “believe more in myself” and realize, “I had it in me that I can win a Grand Slam.”
Tomljanovic exchanged a lengthy hug at the net with Jabeur, who is a close friend, following the match.
“Just trying to do my job and hopefully I inspire more and more generations from Africa,” Jabeur said. “It really means a lot to me.”
In the Garcia versus Gauff match, it was 4-0 merely 17 minutes in, as spectators were still filing in. All in all, there was less vociferous support for Gauff than she heard in her previous victory in Ashe.
During that fairly perfect start, Garcia capped one 17-stroke exchange with a down-the-line forehand winner. She raised a fist and held that pose while looking at her guest box, where her father and coach were on their feet. It was a sequence that would be repeated.
Both are big servers: Gauff hit the fastest by a woman in the tournament this year, at 128 mph; Garcia leads the WTA in aces in 2022. Each delivered one at 117 mph in her opening service game.
But it was Garcia who read Gauff’s offerings far more effectively. Garcia often returned deep enough to seemingly startle Gauff, who rushed some responses. After one of several attempted replies by Gauff settled in the net, she jutted her racket toward the ground, as if to indicate: “Why do these keep landing right there?!”
That sort of constant pressure, and Garcia’s tendency to stay way inside the baseline to receive second serves, could have contributed to Gauff’s six double faults.
Garcia also quickly gained the upper hand from the baseline with her clean, crisp strokes. During a brief TV interview on the way from the locker room to the court, Garcia had said she hoped to be “more aggressive.”
She certainly was.
In a nod to her volleying expertise — something she has displayed in doubles, where she has won two Grand Slam titles with French partner Kristina Mladenovic — Garcia moved forward whenever an opening presented itself. She wound up winning 13 of 16 points when she went to the net.
Rather than fearing, and trying to stay away from, Gauff’s stronger backhand side, Garcia went after it, drawing repeated mistakes.
“I had a lot of unforced errors today; I think I had a couple of balls where I could have finished the point, especially when she was coming to the net — I missed a lot of passing shots when they were open,” Gauff said. “I think I just need to cut back on [the unforced errors], especially when you’re playing an aggressive player like Caroline — you can’t make that many unforced errors.”
Gauff occasionally would show a bit of frustration at her play, slapping herself on the thigh or knocking her racket on a courtside towel holder. She was trying to become the youngest American woman in the US Open semifinals since Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam title in New York in 1999 at age 17.
Garcia would not allow it.
The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.