Coco Gauff sets to join Auckland for semi-finals

The US Open champion Coco Gauff moved into the semi-finals of the Auckland Tennis Classic on Friday with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Varvara Gracheva of France on a rainy quarter-finals day.

The top-seeded player and defending champion needed only 24 minutes to win the first set and took the match in just eight minutes short of an hour.

 

Gauff hasn’t dropped a set at the tournament and didn’t drop a set in winning the tournament last year. Rain delayed the start of the match and was threatening at the end. But Gauff rushed to victory with dark clouds gathering, sending down five aces.

 

“I thought I served really well, probably the best so far at this tournament which is something I was really working on in the off-season.,” Gauff said. “Last year there was a lot more rain so I was glad I was able to finish my match.”

 

Gauff will play fellow American Emma Navarro in the semi-finals after the fourth seed beat Petra Martic of France 6-4, 6-3. Navarro lost to Martic 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 when the pair met in Cincinnati in August, but she turned the tables with an authoritative display, putting 80% of first serves in play and attacking Martic, particularly on her second serve.

China’s Wang Xiyu beat Diane Parry of France 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4 in another quarter-final which lasted three hours and eight minutes of court time but longer in terms of running time because of rain.

Second-seeded Elena Rybakina only needed to play seven games in her quarter-final Friday to reach the final four at the Brisbane International.

 

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka had a tougher run, needing three sets, about two and a half hours, and joked about the prospect of having to wear protective headwear to advance 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 over 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, the No 3 seed.

 

Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, won the first set 6-1 before 11th-seeded Anastasia Potapova retired from their match with an abdominal injury. She’ll next play either Linda Noskova or Mirra Andreeva.

Azarenka, who won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013, clinched her victory in a tense match three games after Ostapenko’s emotional outburst at chair umpire Julie Kjendlie. “With Jelena, sometimes you just have to put on a helmet and try to stay in there,” Azarenka said.

“She’s an incredible player and a grand slam champion, and she’s proved many times she can beat anybody on any given day. The quality of tennis was incredible, so to be able to go through … I’m very proud.”