Tournament 5 Jan 2023

Big names depart as Gauff and Fernandez sparkle at ASB Classic

by Media
Big names depart as Gauff and Fernandez sparkle at ASB Classic

Big names depart as Gauff and Fernandez sparkle at ASB Classic

It proved a mixed day for the big guns amid changing conditions and delays as the battle for quarterfinals placings was decided at the ASB Classic.

In the top half of the draw, top seed Coco Gauff showed her class to head off 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-4 in a match of power and skill from both players.

Her opponent in the quarterfinals will be China’s Zhu Lin, 28, who scored a prestigious win over the legendary Venus Williams in three sets.

The shock came in the middle of the draw when the US Open Grand Slam winner, Emma Raducanu was forced to retire at the start of the third set against Viktoria Kuzmova after picking up an injury.

The Slovakian player will meet Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic who came from a set down to beat American Lauren Davis 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) also came from a set down to dispose of Canadian Rebecca Marino 2-6 6-3 6-3 and takes Leylah Fernandez from Canada in the quarterfinals.

Fernandez, who had to wait for the final game of the night, took just 44 minutes to dismantle Julia Grabner (Austria) 6-0 6-1 in a thoroughly impressive performance to be the player to beat in the bottom half of the draw.

Karolina Muchova (CZE) accounted for Elena-Gabriela Ruse (ROU) 6-4 6-1 and will meet Spain’s Rebeka Masarova who beat Anna Blinkova 6-1 6-4.

The shock came for Raducanu after she sped to a 6-0 opening set win against Kuzmova and was up a break in the second before slipping in a stretch for the ball. She went on to lose the set 5-7 to the tough Slovakian and after a lengthy medical break, she could not continue in the opening game of the final set.

Kenin showed she is moving back to strong form, but Gauff, who plays with a maturity beyond her 18 years, prevailed when it counted most.

While players had to cope with changing conditions, from the wet outdoors to the slick-pace of indoors and with hours of waiting as rain again dominated proceedings, Gauff considered the challenges an advantage.

“You have to adjust. It has been tough waiting and waiting. But you have to be ready to go.”

After packed crowds, Gauff said she looked within before playing in near-solitude indoors.

“It is actually easier. You have to bring the energy from the start. There’s no-one going to help you bring that energy.

“I don’t care if it is indoors, outdoors, under the roof or not. I think it is the best preparation when you have to adjust quickly and to the circumstances that you don’t want to be in to prepare you for the grand slam in Melbourne. The level of the match gives me a lot of confidence.”

Zhu and Williams started outdoors on the stadium court and finished more than seven hours later after a long break before moving indoors at the ASB Tennis Arena.

The remarkable 42-year-old Williams took the first set 6-3 before a second rain delay at 3.25pm forced them indoors, where Zhu went on to claim the second set 6-2. Williams worked her way serve for the third set before the Chinese player fought back, eventually prevailing 7-5.

“The conditions were tough for both of us and she played well,” said the gracious Williams. “I have played a lot of tennis in my life with intense delays but that was definitely like two separate matches. Outside was tough – raining, windy and indoors was completely different.

“An indoor match is different to an outdoor match. But the tournament is doing the best they can. You can’t plan for this sort of weather, you just can’t.

“I have enjoyed it here in Auckland and I’m not thinking about the future. Today was a tough day for sure. I am definitely playing well but I just need more matches.”