Coco Gauff beat world number one Iga Swiatek for the first time in eight meetings on Saturday to advance to the Cincinnati Open final as the American teenager’s level continues to rise ahead of the US Open.
Gauff, seeded seventh, will be the heavy favourite in Sunday’s final when she faces unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova, who beat a misfiring world number two Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2.
Gauff served big and played sensational defence en route to a 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4 win over the 22-year-old Pole, leaping into the air and pounding her chest as the crowd erupted after she secured the hard-fought victory.
“I knew playing her was going to be tough, nothing was going to be given to me today,” she told Tennis Channel.
“I took my opportunities when I got them and just fought for every point. I was a little negative in the second set but I got it back and I was just telling myself, ‘You’re a warrior, you can do this.’
“This shows that I can do it. A lot of people had doubts about my game but I’m still developing.”
Those doubts peaked when she was sent packing in the opening round at Wimbledon last month.
“I told myself I can either let this crush me or make me rise and I decided to make myself rise from it,” she said.
Gauff has certainly elevated her game since the start of the U.S. hard court swing, winning the title in Washington D.C., making the quarters of the Canadian Open and now reaching her first final of a WTA 1000 event.
It will also be the first WTA 1000 final for Muchova, who will make her top 10 debut after the tournament.
Sabalenka came out sharp to build a 4-1 first-set lead before Muchova turned the tables by winning four straight games against the opponent she had beaten at Roland Garros to reach her first Grand Slam final.
Sabalenka kept her composure in the tiebreak but Muchova changed her tactics over the next two sets, standing in closer to the baseline and rushing the net to take time away from the increasingly frustrated Belarusian, who produced 10 double faults.
Muchova saw her ranking plummet last year as she struggled with injuries but is now fully healthy and said she is looking forward to her first match against Gauff.
“I don’t know her well. I don’t think we even ever practiced together. I never even really followed her matches. I’ll look into that,” she told reporters.
“I know she is a great mover. Powerful. I saw some rallies today when she played Iga. Very, very tough. Like every round here, it’s very tough.
“I’m looking forward to that.”
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