Melbourne | Gauff grinds past Kostyuk into first AO semi-final

On a scorching hot day at Melbourne Park, Coco Gauff got past a strong challenge by Marta Kostyuk to advance to her first Australian Open semi-final on Tuesday.

I was just trying to get one more game in the first set, and at least make it competitive. And then one game turned to another, and I was able to win that set. And then, in the second, I put myself in an opportunity [to win]. I think I got a little bit passive. When I came out in the third, I was just trying to play aggressive and hit through the court because I knew if I left something standing, she was going to take advantage. Coco Gauff

The 4th seed who comes from Florida, eventually defeated the Ukrainian, 7-6(6) 6-7(3) 6-2, after a topsy-turvy quarter-final battle that lasted 3 hours and 8 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I’m really proud of the fight I showed today,” Gauff said in her on-court interview. “Marta’s a tough opponent. Every time we play, it’s a tough match. Really fought and left it all on the court today.”

The 19-year-old is the reigning US Open champion, and she needed all her grit and determination to outwit Kostyuk, ranked 37 in the world and fighting for the honour of her country.

Kostyuk, a former junior champion in Melbourne, is in the midst of a career-best stretch, saving match points against No 25 seed Elise Mertens in the 2nd-round before rounding into form by the second week, dropping a 6-1 6-2 scoreline on qualifier Maria Timofeeva to make her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

The Ukrainian, who is a talented and big-hitting opponent, set to work on the Gauff serve, breaking the American for the first time in 3 matches, and capitalising on her opponent’s discomfort to nab commanding 5-1 lead.

Nerves, though, set in for the 21-year-old from Kyiv, who has been at the forefront of advocating for the Ukrainian cause since the beginning of Russia and Belarus’ unprovoked invasion into her homeland.

Wild errors appeared in her game, and Gauff steadied herself enough to save a set point and reel off 5 straight games to find herself serving for the opening set.

The young American failed to serve it out, though, double-faulting at 5-6, 30-40, and allowing Kostyuk to recover to the break, sending the matter to be settled by a tiebreak.

The Ukrainian called for the trainer to deal with a blister on her left foot, and then earned herself another set point after Gauff failed again to close out, having jumped ahead to 4-2 and 5-3 in the breaker, and with 2 serves in hand.

A missed forehand by Kostyuk on her set point handed the initiative back to Gauff, who thrilled the crowd with one last come-back to clinch the first set in just over an hour, winning it with a backhand volley winner, and causing the Ukrainian to smash her racket onto the court in frustration after blowing a double-break lead.


Marta Kostyuk fought back from a set down but could not stop Coco Gauff in the decider

© Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images

Kostyuk continued to show her frustration throughout the second, often looking at and talking to her coach, as Gauff moved out to a 4-2 lead.

The 4th seed served for the match at 5-3 but again was broken, and, after a set featuring 6 breaks of serve, Kostyuk raced out to a 4-0 lead in the ensuing tiebreak to level when a Gauff forehand sailed long on set point.

The third set proved to be one-sided, with Gauff cruising to a 5-0 lead before Kostyuk came alive again at the 11th hour to claw one of the 3 breaks back, but the come-back proved too little, too late, and the American served out the riveting but often ugly contest at her 3rd attempt.

Although Gauff only landed 43% of her first serves in the decider, she was a perfect 12-for-12 behind it in the set.

“I was just trying to get one more game in the first set, and at least make it competitive,” Gauff said. “And then one game turned to another, and I was able to win that set. And then, in the second, I put myself in an opportunity [to win]. I think I got a little bit passive.

“When I came out in the third, I was just trying to play aggressive and hit through the court because I knew if I left something standing, she was going to take advantage.”

Kostyuk produced 39 winners to Gauff’s 17, but was weighed down by 56 unforced errors against the American’s 51 miscues in the erratic match that featured 107 poor shots between them.


In an error-strewn match, Coco Gauff (L) defeated Marta Kostyuk after a topsy-turvy quarter-final

© Paul Crock/AFP via Getty Images

Gauff, who became a title favourite after World No 1 Iga Swiatek’s early departure, reaches her 3rd major semi-final, and is eyeing a second straight Grand Slam title after winning the US Open in September.

She has now won 12 straight Grand Slam matches, and improves to 10-0 in 2024 after clinching the error-strewn affair on Rod Laver Arena.

By defeating her Ukrainian opponent, Gauff, is now just 2 wins away from becoming the first player since Naomi Osaka to take the US Open-AO double.

Standing in between, though, is a potential rematch of her US Open final against Aryna Sabalenka, or 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, who played during Tuesday’s evening session.


The quarter-final was watched by 24-time Grand Slam champion Margaret Court (L), Susan Johnson and Rod Laver (R) on Tuesday

© Daniel Pockett/Getty Images


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