9 Jan 2023

Gauff turns on the firepower in between the rain

7:03 am on 9 January 2023
USA's Coco Gauff during the semi finals of the ASB Classic at the ASB Tennis Arena, Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday 7 January 2023.© Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Coco Gauff says her Auckland win gives her a lot of confidence for the upcoming Australian Open. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

Congratulations to Coco Gauff, who won the ASB Classic women's tournament with a 6-1 6-1 win over Rebeka Masarova. Also, congratulations to the other big winners: whoever got the contract to do the laundry for the towels used to dry the court, because they have cashed in big time.

After the week we've had, it somehow wouldn't have felt right had the ASB Classic women's final not been disrupted by rain. Mother Nature, who is clearly not a tennis fan, obliged right before the scheduled start time of 5pm, then again at the end of the first set. The second delay was a serious downpour that forced a halt of just under two hours, but Gauff played like she had been all week - seemingly making up for lost time.

The signs were ominous for Masarova right from the start. Gauff started with two aces in the first game, then finished with a punishing forehand to go up 1-0. Although Masarova threatened to break in the third game, Gauff held her composure and serve. The American world No 7 then broke Masarova twice to be leading 5-1 and serving for set point.

Credit has to be given to qualifier Masarova for her gamesmanship. While facing set point, she made a complaint to the umpire about the court surface as the first raindrops began to fall. By the time the umpire had got back to her chair, it was raining hard enough to suspend the match.

It was the Spaniard's first WTA final after victory over fellow qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-3 6-3 in the semifinal.

The tactic of stretching the set across the delay worked, at least for a while. It took Gauff five attempts and a stunning cross court backhand to put the first set away when they returned, then she broke Masarova in the first game of the second. Unforced errors crept into the Spaniard's game as Gauff turned on the fireworks, mixing up a series of lobs, drop shots and smashes to break again to make the result a foregone conclusion.

At least it meant that the trophy presentation, where Gauff was presented with the Ruia Morrison korowai last worn by Serena Williams, was able to be completed so the doubles final could then commence before 10:30pm.

USA's Coco Gauff with the winners trophy after winning the ASB Classic at the ASB Tennis Arena, Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday 8 January 2023.© Copyright photo: Chris Symes / www.photosport.nz

Coco Gauff with the trophy. Photo: Photosport / Chris Symes

The crowd was delighted with the result, Gauff quickly became a favourite after first appearing here in Auckland in 2019.

"It's been great, honestly, a great week despite the rain. Can't have asked for a better start to the season and great to win on a surface that I love," she told Sky post-match.

"It's a credit to my off season that I had, credit to my coach. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the next one [Australian Open]."

If anything, the rain delay probably did the crowd a bit of good, extending what was always going to be a pretty quick match out to five hours of socialising and merriment. Gauff's ruthlessness provided some quality highlights, despite Masarova's impressive run from qualifying she didn't stand a chance. The off-court action has been understandably damp after the tournament came back from a three-year hiatus, although ticket sales were very strong for the periods that the weather did allow.

The men's tournament will be interesting, with 'hometown' Cam Norrie due to provide some serious interest.

Gauff was the first top seed to win the ASB Classic women's tournament since 2013 and this was her first tournament win since May 2021.

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