Tournament 7 Jan 2024

Gauff defends ASB Classic honours against gallant Svitolina

by ASB Classic
Gauff defends ASB Classic honours against gallant Svitolina

American teenager Coco Gauff has become just the 10th woman to defend their title at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

In winning her way to her eighth WTA final, the 19-year-old equalled the most wins among American teenagers along with Serena Williams in the last 25 years.

Gauff was made to work hard with a 6-7 6-3 6-3 victory over the remarkable Ukrainian player, Elina Svitolina, who battled a myriad of injuries to put up a mammoth fight.

“It was not my best level of play but sometimes when you are not at your best and you win, it makes you more satisfied,” said Gauff.

“It gives me a lot of confidence beating Elina. It was cool seeing how I handled the pressure especially after losing the first set. I was proud of the mental fight I showed today.

“The biggest thing I learned in winning a slam is that you are going to have to win one of those matches with not playing your best. This week I did that.

“This gives me a lot of confidence looking towards Melbourne. After winning a Slam it is important to be able to reach up again. Being the No. 1 seed, everyone expects you to win which is something I had to adjust to mentally.

“It was great playing in the sunshine and I think the fans enjoyed it too. Women’s tennis is thriving and it can only go upwards. From the first day to the last, the crowds came and I hope that continues.”

Svitolina, last year’s comeback player of the year after two years out with the birth of her daughter, won over many fans with her equal measures of talent and tenacity.

The victory over Emma Raducanu stands as the game of the tournament by some stretch, on top of the win over fellow super-mom, Caroline Wozniacki.

Svitolina said she drew inspiration rom the hoards of messages from friends and family back in Ukraine, who followed her performances despite their plight.

“I always remind myself that people right now, men and women, are fighting for our country and me, I am here in this safe place and this amazing opportunity to play in such a wonderful place and the sport that I love.

“These people who are fighting give me the inspiration and courage to show this unbreakable spirit which motived me to bring the best version of myself.”

Svitolina said she was pleased to have won through the week against such strong opposition, and with a few days’ recovery, believes she is in good space to perform well in Melbourne.

She will remain in Auckland for a few days to recover and support her husband, Gael Monfils, who begins his quest at the ASB Classic men’s tournament.

The women’s doubles honours went to Anna Danilina (KAZ) and Victoria Hruncakova (SVK) who prevailed over Marie Bouzkova (CZE) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 6-3 6-7 10-7.

Earlier the four qualifiers were found to round out the men’s draw which starts.

New Zealand’s Jack Loutit, on scholarship at the University of Kentucky, was edged by American teenager Alex Micheelsen 6-3 6-3 for a spot in the field. He had an opportunity leading 3-1 but could not convert as the American, who is already inside the world’s top 100, took control.

Joining him is world no. 85 ranked Alejandro (CHI), Frenchmen Alexandre Muller and Luca Van Assche.