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Top seeds Gauff, Svitolina to clash in Auckland Classic final

US Open champion Coco Gauff maintained her imperious form in the lead-up to the Australia Open by dismantling Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Auckland Classic on Saturday.

Gauff, world number three and top seed, will defend the title she won a year ago against number two seed Elina Svitolina, who defied a back injury to beat Wang Xiyu.

The Ukrainian needed two medical timeouts before fighting back to beat her unseeded Chinese opponent 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Gauff will be the fresher of the two finalists having not dropped a set all week and racing past fourth seed Navarro in a display that highlighted all her attacking weapons.

The 19-year-old served 10 aces and struck 26 winners, saying afterwards she knew what would be needed to quell her American compatriot.

“Just being aggressive, with my serve and my return,” she said.

“We played a practice set before the tournament started and she was playing really well so I knew it had to be my best game if I wanted to win.

“It’s definitely a good start to my 2024. Emma is an incredible player.”

Svitolina, whose quarter-final win over Marie Bouzkova didn’t finish until 11pm on Friday, played with discomfort from the outset and needed treatment to her lower back 20 minutes into the match.

The 29-year-old took another timeout straight after clinching the second set before emerging to play her best tennis in the closing stages.

Svitolina, who has beaten Grand Slam title winners Caroline Wozniacki and Emma Raducanu this week, said she would need to raise her game to stop Gauff.

“I had really tough matches in the first three rounds and after a late finish last night I went to bed at 2am, so it was not easy,” she said.

“It was really tough in the second set but I just pushed myself through. I played like there is no tomorrow.”

World number 25 Svitolina, who also needed her right ankle strapped during the second set, is a three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist.

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