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Auckland | Coco wins as Serena teams up with Wozniacki

Auckland | Coco wins as Serena teams up with Wozniacki

Teenager Coco Gauff, 15, one of the stars of last year’s Wimbledon, picked up a main draw win in Auckland when she beat Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3 6-1, in a tournament where Serena Williams is due to play for the first time since the US Open on Tuesday.

Playing in the wind was a bit tough. I'm just glad I got through it Cori Gauff

Gauff was unflustered by 2 double faults as she negotiated a blustery wind in her opening service game against last year’s semi-finalist Kuzmova.

She recovered to hold serve and then immediately broke Kuzmova on her way to taking the first set 6-3 before racing through the second set 6-1 to wrap up the match in 61 minutes.

“Playing in the wind was a bit tough. I’m just glad I got through it,” said Gauff who impressed with 4 aces and cashed in with 4 out of 4 break points while saving 3 out of 3 on her own serve.

Williams, who had won six of her 23 Grand Slams before Gauff was born, is scheduled to meet the 15-year-old prodigy in the quarter-finals if they both win their first two matches.

The 38-year-old Williams was drawn to play another Grand Slam winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in the first round but the Russian pulled out on Monday with a viral illness and now faces plays Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi.

Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, was also a late cancellation, citing ‘personal reasons’ while Canadian World No 5 Bianca Andreescu pulled out last month because of an ongoing knee injury.

Williams had a tough time in the wind at her previous appearance in Auckland 3 years ago when she lost in the second round.

Slovakian Tamara Zidansek produced the one upset on day one when she beat 6th seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden in a tightly contested match, 7-6 (7) 7-6 (5).

The only other seed in action, Caroline Garcia, needed more than 2-and-a-half hours and 3 sets to overcome American Taylor Townsend.

The 8th-seeded Frenchwoman dropped the first set 5-7 before recovering to win the next two 6-3 7-5.

Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard opened the 2020 season with a welcomed 7-5 7-5 win over Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in the first round on Monday.

It was Bouchard’s first victory above a 125K event, the lowest level on the WTA Tour, since last February in Dubai.

The 262nd-ranked Bouchard saved 2 of 3 break points and capitalised on 3 of 6 break-point opportunities against the World No 72.

Flipkens, 33, has finished in the top 100 over the past 8 seasons.

Bouchard, 25, who has experienced a big drop in the rankings since reaching No 5 in 2014, will now face No 8 seed Caroline Garcia of France in the second round.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki teamed to win a first-round doubles match.

Williams and Wozniacki overwhelmed Japan’s Nao Hibino & Mikoto Ninomiya, 6-2 6-4, in a match which was both historic and poignant.

The pair jointly have won 24 Grand Slam titles and 102 WTA singles titles.

Williams additionally has won 23 doubles titles, including 13 Grand Slam and 3 Olympic titles, mostly in partnership with her sister, Venus.

In fact, she has not played doubles with anyone other than Venus since 2015, and last played a WTA tournament with anyone other than Venus in 2002, while Wozniacki hasn’t played doubles at all in the last 3 years.

The pair have long harboured a desire to take the court as a doubles pairing and on Monday they took what may be their last opportunity to do so.

Wozniacki is playing the Auckland tournament for the 6th-straight year as a prelude to the Australian Open after which she will retire from competitive tennis.

She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after winning at Melbourne Park in 2018 and has decided to make the Australian Open her last professional tournament before retirement.

Wozniacki & Williams will face each other one last time in an exhibition match in Copenhagen in May, which will be the great Dane’s tennis farewell.

On Monday the pair formed a relaxed and intuitive combination, laughing and exchanging high-fives as they swept past Hibino and Ninomiya in 70 minutes.

“It was so much fun, I really enjoyed that,” Wozniacki said. “I’ve been around for a long time and to get to play with Serena was amazing.

“It wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t at least once get to play with her on the same side.

“She’s beaten me a lot of times on the other side so it’s actually nice that we can win together for once.”

Williams added: “It doesn’t seem like she hasn’t played in a long time because she played unbelievable.

“It’s cool. I can’t let the rest of both of our amazing careers go without playing with her.

“With her doing so well as a Grand Slam champion and a long-time No 1 for so long, of course I want to share the court with her.

“I had to play with her before she retires.”






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