Coco Gauff continues Auckland mastery to set up final with Elina Svitolina

Coco Gauff will defend her title in the Auckland Classic final against Elina Svitolina after beating her fellow American Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-1 in their semi-final. Gauff needed only 62 minutes to sweep past the fourth-seeded Navarro and has now won 18 straight sets and nine consecutive matches over two years in Auckland. She has lost only 15 games in four matches so far this year.

Gauff’s win in Auckland last year was the start of a golden run which culminated when she won her first major title at the US Open. She seems in similar, compelling form this year, dominating matches with her serve and powerful ground shots, sending down 10 aces in 12 games in beating Navarro.

“It’s a good start to my 2024,” said Gauff. “Emma’s a great player. We’ve played each other when I was like 12 years old and she was 15 so it’s our second time playing since then. So it’s really cool to play on this stage. I wish her the best for the rest of the season.”

The 19-year-old Gauff produced a controlled and dominating performance. Her deep ground shots allowed her to follow in to the net, where she dominated and used her powerful forehand with accuracy. “I’m just being aggressive with my serve and return,” she said. “We played one set in practice over here before the tournament began and she was playing really well so I think I knew I had to be at my best to be able to win.”

Tthe second-seeded Svitolina needed two medical timeouts on her way to a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Wang Xiyu of China. Svitolina dropped her serve in the third game of the first set and again, to love, in the fifth game to trail 4-1. She received courtside treatment for a lower back injury then left the court for a medical timeout. When she returned, she immediately broke Wang’s serve but lost her own and lost the set 6-2.

Svitolina took the second set with a solitary break in the 10th game. She called for another medical timeout at the start of the third set but returned to hold serve and to break Wang for 3-1 and 5-1 leads. Wang broke back in the seventh game but Svitolina rallied and served out the set in the ninth game which included two aces.

Meanwhile at the Brisbane International, the world No 2, Aryna Sabalenka, beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 to book a tantalising final against Elena Rybakina in what will be a rematch of their Australian Open title clash last year.

Sabalenka made her grand slam breakthrough by lifting the trophy in Melbourne last year but lost to Rybakina in the Indian Wells final and Beijing quarter-finals before winning the latest chapter of their rivalry at the WTA Finals. The Belarusian can improve her 5-2 win-loss record against Rybakina on Sunday and bag her first trophy this season before her title defence at the Australian Open.

The top-seeded Sabalenka broke for a 3-1 lead with a desperate return from deep that drew an error from Azarenka at the net and overcame wobbles in her next two service games to claim the opening set. She saved two break points to clinch the ninth game of the second set and completed the win when the eighth-seeded Azarenka dropped serve in the following game.

Rybakina, the world No 4, earlier defeated the Czech teenager Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-2 to reach her 15th career singles final and fourth in Australia.

“I love matches against Elena,” said Sabalenka, who is on a 15-match winning streak in Australia having also lifted the title in Adelaide last year. “It’s always high-quality … I hope it’s going to be a great battle tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it.”