Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova scored upset wins on Saturday to line up Cincinnati WTA title clash in the first Masters-level final for both.
Gauff toppled world number one Iga Swiatek 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-4, while Muchova stunned reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2.
The 19-year-old Gauff, ranked seventh in the world, snapped a career-long jinx against Swiatek, taking her first victory after seven losses to the Polish powerhouse in just under three hours after four match points.
“I knew playing her was going to be tough,” Gauff said. “I really took my opportunities when I got them and I really just fought every point.
“I was a little bit negative in the second but I got it back and I was telling myself, ‘You’re a warrior and you can do this.’”
Swiatek, the reigning US Open and French Open champion, had not dropped a set in sweeping her prior matches against Gauff.
“There are things that I want to work on, it’s always like that when you lose,” Swiatek said.
“Overall today I fought till the end. That’s something that I should be proud of.
“For sure I would want the result to be different. Coco’s a great player, so I guess she deserved (the win) more.”
At least the defeat gives Swiatek a bit of extra rest before her title defense at the US Open, which starts a week from Monday.
“I would say my tank of fuel is pretty empty,” Swiatek said. “Honestly, I’m not even going to regret (anything) because I’m happy that I’m going to have days off now.”
Gauff is the first teenager to reach the Cincinnati final since Vera Zvonareva in 2004.
“I tried to serve as hard as I could on the match points,” Gauff said. “She is number one in the world—you have to focus on your end of the court.”
She said her game felt stronger than it had in previous rounds.
“I was playing a little bit better today,” she said. “It was nice to play in front of an American crowd, even if there were some Polish flags in the stands.”
Gauff’s triumph was her 11th career victory over a top-10 opponent. She beat 10th-ranked Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova last week in Montreal.
Swiatek had beaten Gauff twice this season, in Dubai and at Roland Garros.
“I was just saying, ‘I’m Coco Gauff and I can do it,’” the teen said. “Playing her, you have to give it your all and I felt it from the moment I stepped onto the court, that I wasn’t going to lose this match today even when the moments got tough. “And I was right.”
Gauff earned early satisfaction by winning her first-ever set against Swiatek with an opener that ran for 67 minutes.
The set featured four consecutive breaks midway through, with Gauff managing to take it into a tie-breaker.
The American ran off a 4-0 lead and converted on the first of her four set points as Swiatek sent a return long.
But the top seed replied quickly, breaking for 2-1 and again in the final game to square the match at a set apiece.
In the third, Gauff took the lead with a break for 4-3 and finally earned victory as Swiatek volleyed wide on her opponent’s fourth match point.
Muchova repeated her upset win over world number two Sabalenka at the French Open semi-finals in June.
The pair split the opening two sets over nearly two hours, with Muchova opening it up in the third with two breaks of her frustrated opponent.
Muchova will reach the top-10 for the first time as a result of her performance this week.
“It’s unbelievable, this really was an extremely tough battle,” the Czech said. “It was pure fight from both of us. I kept trying to approach the net and change the pace, since her shots are so powerful.
“I don’t know how I won, but I’m glad I did.
“I’m excited to be in the final, I hope some fans will cheer for me even if I’m playing Coco.”
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