New York | Gauff sees off Wozniacki as Muchova sets up Last 8 clash with Cirstea

On Sunday afternoon in New York at the US Open, Coco Gauff ended wild-card Caroline Wozniacki’s come-back campaign in 3 sets, while Karolina Muchova outlasted Xinyu Wang and Sorana Cirstea upset Belinda Bencic to also reach the quarter-finals.

She’s a player where you have to be mentally tough every single point. She’s not going to back down... I knew going in I had to play aggressively and I couldn’t play the game with her making a lot of balls... To be on the court today with her is an honour. Coco Gauff

Wozniacki’s fairytale run was scuppered by Gauff, the 19-year old seeded at No 6 here, after a hard-fought 4th-round contest that edged the American closer towards a first Grand Slam title.

Gauff extended her winning streak to 9 matches after defeating the Danish former World No 1, 6-3 3-6 6-1, after 2 hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium, becoming the first American teenager to reach back-to-back quarter-finals at the US Open since Serena Williams.

“Caroline’s back… it’s like she’s never left,” Gauff said in her on-court interview. “She’s been an inspiration growing up. She definitely gets to a lot of balls. Sometimes I felt like I was playing myself.

“I knew I had to be aggressive today. In some moments I missed, but I was happy I was able to get back and focus.”

Gauff became the most recent teenager since Wozniacki to collect her 5th WTA Tour title, which she did 2 weeks ago, while the great Dane made her Tour-level debut in Cincinnati in 2005, when Gauff was just past her first birthday.

Wozniacki won the first game on Gauff’s serve when the American donated 4 unforced errors, but, aided by a double-fault, Gauff got things back on track at 2-all, and took control from there.

With Wozniacki serving down 2-4, Gauff turned up the heat and, jumping on a second serve, hit a backhand winner to give her 3 break points, but she only needed the one, when the Dane’s forehand flew long.

Although Wozniacki had her chances in the second set, as she increased the pressure on Gauff’s service games, the American still found ways to save break points to escape.

The respite didn’t last long, though, as Gauff’s forehand broke down under pressure, and Wozniacki played an aggressive, all-around game to take a 5-3 lead that held up.

At this point, Gauff told her coach Brad Gilbert to ‘please just stop’ after he became too vocal in offering his advice from the court-side player box.

“Sometimes I do tell them to chill out a little bit because I like to think, and figure out matches my own way,” Gauff explained later. “Sometimes it’s a stress reaction.”

33-year old Caroline Wozniacki's come-back run ended at the hands of Coco Gauff in the Last 16 on Sunday afternoon

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The 19-year-old did look unsettled at a break down in the decider, but she quickly recovered her composure to reel off 6 straight games to win the entertaining battle.

With the match knotted at one set apiece, Gauff had stepped up the pressure, urging the New York crowd to turn up the volume, and they obliged.

She promptly responded with yet another break, her 5th of the match, to distance herself for good at 5-1.

“She’s a player where you have to be mentally tough every single point,” said Gauff. “She’s not going to back down.

“Getting the third set to 2-1 was the turning point,” Gauff said. “I showed I was still in the match after breaking back. I started to go for my shots.

“I knew going in I had to play aggressively and I couldn’t play the game with her making a lot of balls. In some moments I missed but I was happy I was able to get back and focus.

“The level she played [at] today is really amazing, and she has been an inspiration for me growing up,” Gauff said. “It’s a little bit weird because I remember watching her win the Australian Open in 2018.

“To be on the court today with her is an honour.”

33-year old Wozniacki has impressed in only her 3rd tournament since returning to the tour as a mother-of-two last month, and she has not lost the athleticism which defined the first phase of her career before retiring in 2020.

On this occasion, though, she lacked sufficient weapons to get the better of Gauff, who stroked 33 winners to overcome her 44 unforced errors.

Next up for Gauff is a Last 8 contest with Jelena Ostapenko, the 20th seed from Latvia, who stunned defending champion and World No 1 Iga Swiatek in the late-night match that saw the Pole’s reign as both US Open and top ranking dog come to an end.

Karolina Muchova weaved her web to outplay Xinyu Wang at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and set up a US Open quarter-final encounter with Sorana Cirstea

© Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Muchova approaches her tennis much like a chess game, moving the pieces with comfortable ease until it is time to unleash a lethal strike, and she weaved her way past Chinese upstart Xinyu Wang in a back-and-forth tussle, 6-3 5-7 6-1, after 2 hours and 34 minutes to reach the quarter-finals of the 2023 US Open.

The 27-year-old Czech scored her win on a balmy afternoon in Louis Armstrong Stadium on Sunday, fighting off the Chinese challenger.

“I’m really glad that I finished and it’s over, this match,” Muchova admitted after her victory. “It’s pretty warm today, isn’t it?”

Muchova, one of four WTA players to make her Top-10 debut in 2023, has won 34 matches on tour, and reached her maiden Grand Slam final 3 months ago in Paris.

Although she was off her game in stretches against the punchy Wang, confidence accrued over the course of the best season of her career ultimately gave her the edge over the 21-year-old Chinese, who was competing in Last 16 of a major for the first time.

In their first meeting, the breaks flowed, 9 for Muchova and 6 for Wang, who managed to overcome her nerves and push through an extremely tense 72-minute middle set, but it was the Czech who controlled the important moments down the stretch, delivering in crunch time as Wang wilted.

“I’ve never played her before,” Muchova remarked. “She’s young and she played unbelievable tennis. Every match is very tough—I’m just glad I’m through and I played and won another tough match.”

Muchova claimed 4 of the final 5 games of the opener, locking up the set with a backhand winner, but, in the second, Wang raised her level and secured 3 consecutive breaks and then another to level at a set apiece.

The decider proved to be a different story as Muchova quickly angled in for her 12th 3-set victory of 2023 when play resumed after the break, with the Czech dashing Wang’s upset hopes with a sterling set that saw her sprint away with the final 5 games.

“I think in the third set I came back to my game,” said the World No10. “To slice it more, and change the rhythm—that was the key actually, and I’m really glad that I pulled it out in the third.”

Muchova improves to 5-1 in Round 4 matches at the majors, and reaches her maiden quarter-final in New York in her 6th appearance at Flushing Meadows.

Sorana Cirstea upset 15th-seeded Belinda Bencic in straight sets on Sunday

© Sarah Stier/Getty Images

This time last year she had a bad run of injury luck and dropped to No 235 in the rankings, while she lost in the opening round here at the 2022 US Open, but the Czech has now reached the quarters at all four Grand Slams, and will face Sorana Cirstea, who upset Belinda Bencic, the 15th seed from Switzerland.

Bencic suffered a tame 4th-round 6-3 6-3 defeat to Cirstea, the 33-year-old from Romania, who will now contest her 2nd Grand Slam quarter-final some 14 years after her first at the French Open in 2009.

The Swiss thought she could have her hands full on Sunday as she had lost 2 of their last 3 matches with Cirstea, and the afternoon temperature hit 90 degrees on the Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Making her 59th Grand Slam main draw appearance and 15th at the US Open, Cirstea was still in her teens when she made that first Last 8 appearance, and she is now the oldest woman to reach the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for the first time.

“Unfortunately in tennis, not all the work you’ve put in is always rewarded,” said Cirstea. “So it’s nice to work hard and also get the reward.

“I don’t think there is any magic thing or any key. I wish I had one I can turn it on and off. Sooner or later, if you put in the hard work, it comes.”

In the first set, the 33-year-old underdog was the quicker starter, and needed just 22 minutes to go up 5-0.

While Cirstea painted the lines, 26-year-old Bencic seemed stuck to the baseline, hitting zero winners and making 11 unforced errors, and although the Swiss finally managed to hold her serve and break back, it was a case of too little, too late.

Serving to start the second set, Bencic lost the game to love, tossing in her 3rd double-fault as well as her racket on the changeover.

Cirstea broke Bencic twice, and then consolidated by going up 4-1.

“I have been starting the whole tournament quite well, and, I think, that was the key today, to go up 5-Love quite quickly,” Cirstea said. “And then, of course, she’s a great player so she started to swing more, started to be more aggressive.

“I think, the early break in the second set was very important, to go a set and a break up. Then, of course, she had to catch up to me.”

With a comfortable cushion, Cirstea stayed steady and hit her spots as, adding insult to injury, a visibly frustrated Bencic took a nasty spill.

With the clock hitting 75 minutes, the Olympic gold medalist was down 2-5, and facing Cirstea’s hitherto unfailing serve, and, although the Romanian did wobble, offering the break back, she eventually closed out the win.

The upset is just the latest in what has been a remarkable run for the Cirstea, who had already delivered one of the big Flushing Meadows shocks taking out 4th seed and 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the 3rd-round.

Next up for the Romanian is Muchova in what will their 4th meeting this year, with the Czech winning in Dubai and Montréal and Cirstea coming out on top in Miami.

“We’ve had very tough matches, very tight battles every time we played against each other,” said Cirstea. “This year we played three times so I think we know each other quite well.

“I’m really expecting a tough one. But again, I’m very happy and grateful to be here.

Belinda Bencic took a nasty tumble during her match against Sorana Cirstea

© Sarah Stier/Getty Images



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