Coco Gauff dominated the field at the ASB Classic in Auckland this week, making a sensational start to her by lifting the trophy on Sunday after an easy 6-1 6-1 win over Rebeka Masarova, the qualifier from Spain who has enjoyed an exceptional run also.
It’s been great, honestly a great week for me despite the rain. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my season. It’s my first title on hard courts since I was 15 so it’s lovely to finally do well on a surface that I love. Coco Gauff
After a disappointing end to her 2022 season, 18-year-old Gauff has wiped the slate clean and kicked off 2023 with her first tournament title since 2021 Parma, and her first on hard court since winning her first at 2019 Linz.
The American had lost 9 consecutive sets in singles as she was beaten in all of her matches at the WTA Finals, and then also could not help her country at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow.
She has put all that behind her now, scoring wins over 2022 Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria, 2020 Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin, Zhu Lin and Danka Kovinic without dropping a set to reach the final where she overwhelmed her Spanish opponent.
In fact, she lost just 22 games in the process and, in between, found time to jump from the tower in Auckland.
Playing here as the top seed, Gauff managed the unpredictable and rainy conditions throughout the week, as the tournament was forced to use indoor courts to keep the event on schedule.
The rain held off on Sunday, though, as Gauff readied to face Masarova, who was into her first WTA final after an outstanding week.
23-year old Masarova had defeated former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, the 2nd seed, Anna Blinkova, Karolina Muchova, and Ysaline Bonaventure after her 2 rounds of qualifying, spending over 10 hours on court ahead of the final.
In the final, it was yet another dominant performance by the young American, though, who took out Masarova, ranked 130, in dominant fashion.
After rain delayed the start of the final, Gauff broke immediately in the opening game, and built a 5-1 lead before the rain returned as she was set to serve on set point.
The brief delay was not enough to cool off Gauff, though, and when they returned to the court, the American calmly served out the opening set, and did not take a step wrong in the second set.
Masarova had her chances to pressure the American, earning 5 break points in the 6th game, but Gauff saved them all, and broke to close out the win.
Masarova struggled with converting her break point chances, 10 of them in all, but never managed to break Gauff, and when, on championship point, the American put down a disguised drop-shot, she raced in but could not lift the ball over the net.
“It’s been great, honestly a great week for me despite the rain,” said Gauff, who won 2 of her 5 matches on her way to the title indoors because of the weather, and also endured a lengthy rain delay in the final. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my season.
“It’s my first title on hard courts since I was 15 so it’s lovely to finally do well on a surface that I love.”
For Masarova, who had an outstanding week to reach her first WTA Tour final, it proved a step too far.
“I’m glad I was able to reach my first WTA final, but I was disappointed with today’s match,” Masarova admitted. “I felt I couldn’t really play my game, but Coco was playing amazing, and didn’t really give me a chance.
“I had a lot of tough matches. I think that helped me stay physically good throughout the week, but it was a long week with the stopping and starting. I think I warmed up about 25 times!”
Even though the match itself was short, it was an incredibly long day for both players, with the final scheduled to begin at 5pm, but not finishing until 9.57pm and, sadly, this week will be remembered as much for the rain as it will for breathtaking tennis from Gauff.
The American comes away with the 3rd WTA title of her career, having previously lifted trophies on indoor hard courts in Linz, Austria in 2019, and on clay in Parma, Italy in 2021.
She will stay at No 7 in the WTA Rankings, while Masarova will enter the Top 100 for the first time in her career as she moves up by 36 places to No 94.