Though her two-handed backhand and her court coverage remain her strengths, her serve and her forehand have been question marks. She has shored up the forehand and has been increasingly effective pouncing on short balls and hitting winners with that stroke. But double faults have been a recurring issue. Last month, she had 13 in a straight-sets loss to Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals of an event in Charleston, S.C., and 12 more in a three-set defeat to Karolina Pliskova in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Those are big, disquieting numbers. The serving yips can be daunting to overcome, particularly in tight matches with Grand Slam titles on the line. But Gauff, with less at stake, served well through the pressure in Rome and Parma.
Against Wang, she hit six double faults, but none came at critical junctures, and she did not lose a game on her serve.
“That feels good,” she said. “The serve is something I’ve been working on a lot, and I can still improve on it.”
Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion who is coaching Wang, agreed that Gauff’s serve needed work — “Sometimes she gets a bit too much spin on it,” he said — but after sitting courtside in Parma on Saturday, he said he liked her chances of playing well in Paris.
“I don’t think she’s going to be that far off at the French,” Cash said. “I think Coco can get frustrated with the ball coming back time and time again. She over-hits at times, and that’s what we were hoping she would do today. We were hoping to frustrate her, but she hit God knows how many lines, baselines and sidelines, with power.
“I was very impressed with her speed, and she’s a strong girl. She was a pretty skinny little thing a couple years ago, but she’s very strong on the stretch. That’s where it really counts.”