Coco Gauff retained her Auckland Classic title by withstanding Elina Svitolina in a tumultuous three-set final on Sunday. The tournament served as an ideal warm-up for the Australian Open.
The third-seeded American and world number three displayed tenacity by rallying to defeat the second-seeded Ukrainian 6-3, 6-3, 6-7. The Ukrainian’s participation had been in doubt after she staggered through her semi-final the night before.
However, for the first time in the tournament, Svitolina put the US Open champion to the test, as 2023 Auckland champion Gauff dropped her first set in two competitions in the New Zealand city.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to defend a Grand Slam title, so I’m ecstatic to have accomplished it today,” said Gauff, who won her inaugural Grand Slam in New York in September.
The twenty-five-year-old Gauff engaged in a ferocious baseline combat with the world number 25 player, who displayed no resemblance to the back and ankle injuries she sustained in the three-set semi-final triumph over Wang Xiyu of China.
After giving birth, Svitolina did not return to the circuit until April of last year.
Gauff stated, “I would like to extend my congratulations to Elina on an extraordinary week.” Seven days later, he will depart for Melbourne in preparation for the inaugural Grand Slam of the year.
“Being a mother and returning at such an accelerated rate and at such an exceptional level is truly motivating.” “With any luck, it won’t be long before I can do it as effectively as you’ve done it.”
Before prevailing on a tiebreak, Svitolina, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist, broke back twice in a tumultuous first set.
Gauff began to discover her range after tying the match in the second, and her unforced error tally decreased as her confidence grew.
Gauff, whose path to the final had been merely prolonged, emerged victorious to earn the sole break of the third set and secure her eighth WTA title in 2 hours and 35 minutes.
“It’s been a really great experience to play for the first time here,” commented Svitolina.
“A tough loss today of course but I’m hoping I can come back next year as well.”