Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final

New Zealand Top-seeded Coco Gauff won her second WTA Auckland Classic title on Sunday, defeating second-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3. Gauff had a fight on her hands for the first time all week. She sailed into the final without dropping a set; in fact, she dropped only 15 games in the semifinals.



That followed her immaculate tournament last year when she didn’t drop a set and finished the week with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Rebeka Masarova in the final. The third-ranked Gauff required only four hours of court time to reach the final, although Ukraine’s Svitolina needed twice as long, defeating China’s Wang Xiyua 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a match that lasted four and a half hours with rain breaks.



Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final
Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final

 

The match against Svitolina on Sunday was by far the most difficult Gauff has encountered in the opening week of her 2024 season. She had to come from a set down for the first time, and it took her 2 hours and 23 minutes to win. Gauff’s previous longest match at the competition had lasted 1 hour and 22 minutes.



It was a fight the entire time. All week, Gauff’s serve has been the foundation of her game. She served 10 aces in her 6-3, 6-1 semifinal victory over fellow American Emma Navarro, and she won 80 per cent of points all week when her first serve was in play.



Gauff had three aces and seven double faults against Svitolina. She served only 65 per cent of the time and made 43 unforced mistakes. Gauff was uneasy against the hard-hitting Svitolina, who was tenacious and ran down shots that Gauff would have previously counted as victories. But she persisted and won the third set, in which she broke Svitolina only once, in the eighth game.



Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final
Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final

In the next game, she served for the match and championship and had to save a break point before winning her first match point. She became the first player to win back-to-back Auckland titles since Julia Goerges in 2018 and 2019 and the first American to do it since Patty Fendick in 1988 and 1989.



“This is the first time I’ve ever had to defend a title, so I’m really happy I was able to do it today,” Gauff said in a statement.



“I’d like to congratulate Elina on an outstanding week.” It’s pretty inspiring what you accomplish, becoming a mother and returning so quickly and at such a high level. Hopefully, but not anytime soon, I’ll be able to do it like you.”



Gauff broke Svitolina in the fourth game of the first set, but Svitolina soon broke again. In the ninth game, Svitolina was broken again and broke back directly in a service game in which Gauff had two double faults. The set went to a tiebreak, which Svitolina won easily 7-4.



Gauff broke Svitolina to start the second set, and she broke her again in the seventh game. In the ninth game, Svitolina broke again, but Gauff broke again. She was 15–40 down and serving for the set when she came back to tie the match.


Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final
Coco Gauff rallies to beat Elina Svitolina in gruelling Auckland Classic final

The final set was tense, with some spectacular rallies in which both players used power and touch. Gauff earned a crucial service break in the eighth game and faced another break point before serving out the set and victory.



“It’s been a really great experience to play for the first time here,” she remarked. “I’d like to congratulate Coco and her team on a fantastic start to the year and wish them luck at the Australian Open.”



“I’ve had a great time here, playing great matches.” It was a painful defeat today, but I hope to return next year to play more tennis here.”Gael Monfils, who will compete in the men’s Auckland Classic, which begins on Monday, was with Svitolina on the court.



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