Auckland | Gauff and Svitolina stay on track to meet in final

Elina Svitolina dropped just 3 games to Marie Bouzkova to reach the semi-finals of the ASB Classic in  Auckland on Friday, erasing the memory of her tough win against Emma Raducanu in a very tight 3 sets, while top-seeded Coco Gauff continued her title defence by cruising past Varvara Gracheva.

I think I’m moving better, I’m building the points much better. Of course, 2023 was a come-back for me. It was a bit different, now I feel more comfortable with my game. I feel more composed because I had two months to work on it. I’m happy so far, so I’ll try to continue the same way. Elina Svitolina

Svitolina, the 2nd seed from Ukraine, won the first 7 and the last 5 games in a row to defeat the 5th-seeded Czech, 6-0 6-3, after just 65 minutes, putting her into her 3rd WTA Tour semi-final since returning from maternity leave last year.

“It was a great match for me,” Svitolina said of the win. “I wanted to bring my best energy tonight because I’ve had some tough battles with Marie before. So I had to be 100% and I’m happy it worked well for me today, and to get a win in straight sets is really what I wanted.”

Free from having to play another blockbuster match, after wins over Caroline Wozniacki and Raducanu, Svitolina was able to unleash all her weapons to dismantle Bouzkova in their quarter-final clash.

Ranked 36, Bouzkova had looked impressive when she thrashed American Amanda Anisimova a couple of days earlier, but Svitolina, like Gauff earlier in the day in her 6-1 6-1 win over Gracheva, showed why there is a difference between the top players at the women’s game and the also-rans.

“It was very different,” Svitolina said. “She has her own game style, she’s a great fighter, so I had to bring the best energy today and try to be focused for every point, because I knew that she could come back at any moment.”

It took only 25 minutes for Svitolina to win the first set, stepping in to take the ball early and using her superior pace and accuracy, which Bouzkova found hard to handle.

The Czech managed to reset in the next set, and she not only held serve in the second game but broke Svitolina in the next, but the Ukrainian got herself back on track in the 6th game, and won every game after that.

“In previous matches [against Bouzkova] I’ve won one set and then she came back in the second,” Svitolina said. “I was expecting this, and that’s why I tried to keep my spirit in a positive way, and it helped me to fight back and break back.”

The immense battle with Raducanu on Thursday night took a lot out of Svitolina and she tried to recover as much as possible for this match.

“I can’t say I’m fresh, but this is the first tournament, and it always takes a little bit more out of the body.

“We’re taking it one day at a time, and trying to do everything possible, my physiotherapist, the physio from the WTA as well, they’re helping us, so I’m trying to do my best.”

Auckland is Svitolina’s first tournament since last year’s US Open.

“I think I’m moving better, I’m building the points much better,” she said. “Of course, 2023 was a come-back for me. It was a bit different, now I feel more comfortable with my game.

“I feel more composed because I had two months to work on it. I’m happy so far, so I’ll try to continue the same way.”

In Saturday’s semi-final, Svitolina will play Wang Xiyu from China, who, in the earlier quarter-final match, defeated Diane Parry from France, 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4, in a contest that lasted 3 hours and 4 minutes, and stretched across the day and night sessions with a rain delay of over an hour during it.

Coco Gauff fired 5 aces to see off Varvara Gracheva with the loss of just 2 games in Auckland, New Zealand.

Gauff, the World No 3, needed just 53 minutes to dispatch France’s Gracheva in her quarter-final on Friday.

The reigning US Open champion extended her winning streak in Auckland to 8 matches, and has not dropped a set during that run.

Ranked 41, Gracheva was playing her first hard-court quarter-finals since making the final in Austin last March.

After breaking Gracheva in her first service game to build a 3-0 lead, Gauff raced through the opening set in 33 minutes.

The 19-year-old American put on an all-court masterclass as she blunted the Russian-born Frenchwoman from the baseline, and cleaned up clinically in the forecourt.

“I thought I served really well, probably the best so far this tournament,” Gauff said, “which was something I was working really hard on in the off-season.”

With two more breaks of serve early in the second set, Gauff continued her efficient march towards the finish line.

After building a 4-0 lead, she closed the match 3 games later as Gracheva’s forehand continued to miss its mark.

Gauff’ served at 72% and fired 5 aces, while striking 13 winners to 11 unforced errors.

She did not face a break point and converted 5 of her 7 break points to notch her 3rd win of the year.

Emma Navarro was a straight sets winner over Petra Martic and will meet Coco Gauff in the semi-finals on Saturday

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

Bidding to make her first final of the new season, Gauff will face compatriot and No 4 seed Emma Navarro in the semi-finals on Saturday, after the World No 31 scored a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Petra Martic, seeded 7 from Croatia.

Navarro lost to Martic in 3 sets when they met in Cincinnati last August, but she turned the tables on Friday with an authoritative display, putting 80% of her first serves into play and attacking the Martic second serve.

“Tennis always keeps us on our toes so you’ve got to be ready for things like rain delays,” Navarro said. I was happy with my performance today, played my most comfortable tennis out here.”

Navarro rushed out to a 4-0 lead in the second set before Martic claimed a service break, and the match went with serve until the American took the match on her 3rd match point.

Wang Xiyu came through the toughest quarter-final, beating Diane Parry after over 3 hours of play on Friday in Auckland

© Phil Walter/Getty Images



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