Coco Gauff to meet qualifier Rebeka Masarova in Auckland final – ‘It’s been a while’

Shahida Jacobs

Coco Gauff is one win away from notching up a third WTA Tour singles title after seeing off Danka Kovinic in the semi-final of the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The tournament has been hampered by rain the whole week, but the top seed made the most of the clear skies as she took just one hour and 13 minutes to brush aside Kovinic 6-0, 6-2 to reach her first WTA final since May 2021 when she won the Emilia-Romagna Open on clay.

Her other title to date came on the hard courts at the Linz Open in October 2019. Gauff, of course, finished runner-up at Roland Garros last year, but the Grand Slams are a notch above the WTA.

On Saturday, she required less than 30 minutes to notch up the opening set as she broke in games two, four and six. After opening a 2-0 lead in the second set, the seventh-seeded Kovinic broke back before the American got a second break. Gauff eventually wrapped it up with a third break in game eight.

“It means a lot, the last final was the French Open,” the world No 7 said. “But on the WTA level, the last one was Parma, so it’s been a while.

“Any final, especially the first week of the year, I didn’t expect this outcome coming into the tournament. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season, regardless of the result tomorrow.”

She added: “I think in the quarter-final and today there were errors from me, but that’s just tennis so I want to work on that for the final. When the matches are closer you want to win those break points quicker.”

Up next is Rebeka Masarova after the Spaniard beat fellow qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3, 6-3 in a rain-delayed encounter. Masarova stunned former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round while Bonaventure took out third seed and 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez in the quarter-final.

World No 130 Masarova broke in game four of the second set and then raced into a 5-1 lead in the second set on the back of two breaks. Bonaventure got one break back in game eight only for the Spaniard to break again and wrap up the match.

“It feels amazing, I’m high on emotions right now, so I’m super happy,” Masarova said. “I like to think always that I can do more than I think I’m capable of doing. I just took it a match at a time.”

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