Top seed Coco Gauff cruised into the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland on Saturday, taking an hour and 13 minutes to see off Danka Kovinic from Montenegro, 6-0 6-2, and booking her spot in her first WTA Tour final in 20 months.
The win means a lot. It’s been a while. Any final is great, especially the first tournament of the year, which was not something I expected coming in. I couldn’t ask for a better start to the season, regardless of the result tomorrow. I am going to approach it like any other match – accepting the result regardless of whether I win or lose – nothing is going to change. Coco Gauff
“I guess [I’m in the groove],” she told spectators. “I’m in the final, so it’s hard to say no to that question. It was really good on my behalf.
“I’m glad I was able to play in front of you guys, finally. It’s pretty much a sold-out house so thanks for supporting me.”
The semi-final match was played outdoors in front of a crowd, after several days when matches were sent indoors to be played without fans.
18-year old Gauff has yet to drop a set in New Zealand, and her performance against the No 7 seed was exemplary.
The American World No 7 won the first 8 games before Kovinic got herself onto the scoreboard, and managed to break Gauff once before the top seed immediately broke back to stay in front.
Gauff needed 4 match points, though, to put the Montenegrin away and secure victory.
“Danka, she played really well,” Gauff said later. “Today, I was playing good, but she showed fight in the end.”
Gauff brought her powerful and accurate serve to the battle, converting 73 percent first serves and 69 percent second serves, which set the platform.
She defended well also with her all-court game, and was strong from the back of the court while she also ventured to the net.
Kovinic, who came into 2023 on the back of superb clay-court form, including being the beaten finalist in Argentina and a semi-finalist in Chile and Parma, was simply over-powered by the American.
Gauff timed her victory to perfection, winning minutes before the dreaded rain fell again, and brought a near 3 hour delay to proceedings.
“It was a great match on my account – nothing to complain about,” added Gauff. “I am glad I got it in before the rain came.
“I have a good track record with rain coming from Florida. I knew we had about 20 minutes left, but I was trying to focus on the match and not the rain coming.”
After losing just 20 games in 8 sets during her second trip to Auckland, Gauff is looking to win her second career Hologic WTA Tour singles title on Sunday, her first singles final since Roland Garros last spring.
“The win means a lot. It’s been a while,” Gauff continued. “Any final is great, especially the first tournament of the year, which was not something I expected coming in.
“I couldn’t ask for a better start to the season, regardless of the result tomorrow.
“I am going to approach it like any other match – accepting the result regardless of whether I win or lose – nothing is going to change.”
Gauff’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be Rebeka Masarova, a qualifier from Spain, whose semi-final was delayed by the rain and who later defeated Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure, 6-3 6-3.
When the rain finally gave way to a sunny evening at the ASB Tennis Arena, Masarova, the World No 130, proved too strong for Bonaventure, taking just 67 minutes to beat the Belgian.
“It is my first WTA final, and I have been playing more of these in the last year,” said the former French Open junior champion, who is now 23 years old. “I have talked to my family at home as I have come over on my own.
“They are very happy, and so was my coach, who couldn’t come with me this time.
“I will prepare as normal for the final. I know she is a great player and I want to play my best.”