Top seed Coco Gauff rolled into the semi-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland with a 6-3 6-2 win over China’s Zhu Lin, and she next will take on 7th-seeded Danka Kovinic, who cruised past Viktoria Kuzmova by the same score.
It's not the ideal conditions to play in, no fans, and I'm sad they can't see the matches. But at the end of the day, it's tennis, and I'm glad to be on the court. Coco Gauff
The other semi-final sees two qualifiers meet, when Ysalina Bonaventure encounters Rebeka Masarova, winners over Leylah Fernandez, the 3rd seed, and Karolina Muchova respectively.
For the third day in a row, matches were moved indoors on Friday because of persistent rain, and played without spectators.
Gauff, who has yet to drop a set this week, deserved an audience for her impressive win over Zhu, which she achieved in only 76 minutes, to earn herself the 9th semi-final appearance of her career.
The American was in top form on Friday, firing 8 aces and winning 89% of her first-serve points, while she did not face a break point, but converted 3 of her 13 chances to break the Zhu serve.
“It was a really great match for me,” Gauff said later. “Each match I’m improving, and that’s what I love to see.
“She’s not an easy player, obviously, beating Venus [Williams] yesterday, and she was probably coming off a lot of momentum, but I was glad I was able to stay focused.”
Gauff has adapted better than most to the indoor courts, which players say are faster and slicker than those outdoors.
Her game seemed unaffected, and she played her groundstrokes with confidence, but she is missing the crowd.
“It’s not the ideal conditions to play in, no fans, and I’m sad they can’t see the matches,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s tennis, and I’m glad to be on the court.”
Gauff’s next opponent, Kovinic, saw off Slovakian qualifier Kuzmova, who had benefitted from the early withdrawal of Emma Raducanu after the British No 1 turned her ankle on Thursday and could not continue.
Belgian qualifier Bonaventure comprehensively upset former Canadian US Open finalist Fernandez, 6-4 6-2, taking an hour and 9 minutes to dust her off.
Bonaventure had gone 0-4 down to Fernandez in their previous tour-level quarter-finals, but she thrived in the indoor conditions to upset the Canadian and reach her maiden Hologic WTA Tour semi-final.
“I’ve been serving very well,” she said after winning the all-left-hander clash. “From the back I was trying to be as aggressive as possible, and stay as consistent as possible.
“I knew she’s an aggressive player, so I managed to do that today.”
Bonaventure won 61% of points returning Fernandez’s second service, and although she delivered just a single ace while also committing 4 double-faults, she won 71.9% of her first-serve points, and also broke on 4 of her 8 chances.
Fernandez, who had dropped only 3 games combined in her first 2 matches, had 6 break points of her own, but could only convert one, and while the Canadian 3rd seed fired 3 aces, she committed 4 double-faults in the match, and won 60% of her first-serve points.
Bonaventure’s Last 4 challenge comes in the form of the tall Spanish qualifier, Masarova, who ground her way past Czech Muchova, 7-6(4) 7-6(2), after a 2 hour 4 minute battle of wills.
Masarova, ranked No 130, has taken out 2nd-second American Sloane Stephens, and the Russian, Anna Blinkova, this week, and now she has edged out Muchova, currently ranked 151 but a former World No 19 who made the draw by way of a Special Ranking.
The 23-year old Spaniard has three nationalities, with a Slovak father, Spanish mother and born in Basel, Switzerland, and is poised to break into the Top 100.
She won the junior title at Roland Garros under the Swiss flag in 2016, and also reached the junior final in Melbourne in 2017, but a knee injury then curtailed her progress.
Having played for Spain from the age of 9 to 15, she then switched allegiance to Switzerland, but then opted to return to Spain, where she has already been called up for the national team in 3 Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers.
At 6’1”, Masarova possesses a formidable serve and was aided by the fast indoor conditions on Friday against Muchova.