Tennis: Coco Gauff heads to Australian Open with confidence high after Auckland win

AP , Monday 8 Jan 2024

U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff will head to the Australian Open with greater confidence in her form and fitness after beating Elina Svitolina in three sets in the Auckland Classic final.

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff heads to Australian Open with confidence high after Auckland win. Photo: AP

The third-ranked Gauff became only the fourth player to win back-to-back singles in Auckland, achieving the feat at the age of 19.

Gauff didn’t drop a set on the way to her first Auckland title in 2023 and extended that run to nine matches when she reached Sunday’s final, again without dropping a set.

But she lost the opening set against second-seeded Svitolina and had to work hard to win the match 6-7 (4), 6-3. 6-3 in just under three hours. Previously, she had spent only four hours on court in four matches and had dropped only 15 games on her way through the semifinals.

Her serve, which had been a formidable component of her matches throughout the tournament — she served 10 aces in beating American Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-1 in a semifinal — deserted her on Sunday. She served only three aces but mixed those with seven double faults and had to find new ways to win points against the resilient Svitolina who reached a career-high ranking of three in 2017.

The final turned into the tough workout Gauff needed before heading to the first major of the season in Melbourne. Had she continued her relatively effortless progress through the tournament she might not have been as well prepared for the rigors of Grand Slam play.

“It gives me a lot of confidence, especially sometimes when you’re playing a tournament and some of the matches are going pretty easily for the score line,” Gauff said. “It was cool to see how I was able to react under pressure, especially after losing the first set when I was up.

“So I’m happy with the mental fight I showed today. There are things I can improve on but overall I’m happy with the level I played this week, playing five matches.”

Gauff carried her Auckland form into the Australian Open last year, matching her best result in Melbourne by reaching the fourth round. She went on to win her first major title at the US Open.

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