Coco Gauff enjoys strong start to season ahead of Australian Open, wins Auckland Classic title

Coco Gauff enjoyed a strong start to her season, defending her Auckland Classic title after defeating Elina Svitolina 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 in the final on Sunday.

It marked the 19-year-old’s eighth WTA title, equaling Serena Williams’ record haul for American teenagers in the past 25 years.

“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,” Gauff said afterwards, according to the Auckland Classic’s website.

“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.”

Svitolina, who has already returned to the top 25 after coming back from giving birth nine months ago, defended two set points in the opening set when Gauff had an opportunity to strike the first blow.

The former world No. 3 then wrapped up the set in the tiebreak, but Gauff recovered, engineering a double-break in the second to take a 5-2 lead and, this time, she didn’t let the advantage slip.

After a tense start to the third set, Gauff broke Svitolina to lead 5-3 and fended off a break point as she served for the tournament.

Winning a tournament so early in the year continues Gauff’s stellar form from last season, during which she won her first grand slam title at the US Open in September.

“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,” she added.

“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.”

Gauff’s attention will now turn to the 2024 Australian Open which begins on January 14.

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