Gauff survives 17 double-faults, joins Swiatek, Sabalenka in WTA semis

After surviving a game-off elimination at the WTA Finals on Friday, Coco Gauff rebounded by surmounting seventeen double-faults. Ultimately, she advanced to the semifinals by defeating Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in a round-robin match.

“Mental toughness is the biggest thing I’m pleased with,” Gauff commented. “That was a challenging battle. She is not a simple opponent. Difficult conditions. And I remained inside the arena at all times, fighting.”

On Saturday, she will face Jessica Pegula, her doubles companion and close friend, in an all-American match that will determine her berth into the final. In the other semifinal of the season-ending championship, No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka will face No. 2 Iga Swiatek, the opponent she dethroned from the top spot in September. The No. 1 position at the conclusion of the year is at stake in Cancun, and Swiatek must win to replace Sabalenka.

The 19-year-old Florida native Gauff, who won the September U.S. Open, completed round-robin play with a record of 2-1. Swiatek, a four-time major champion, finished their division with a 3-0 record, including a 6-2, 6-1 victory on Friday against Ons Jabeur in windy and wet conditions.

Sabalenka advanced to the semifinals for the second year in a row by defeating Elena Rybakina 6-3, 6-2, 3-6 on Friday in a match that was disrupted numerous times by rainfall the night before. This elevated Sabalenka to second place in the other round-robin group, 2-1, in trailing the unblemished Pegula.

Gauff lost four consecutive games and sixteen of twenty-one points in order to fall from first place in the opening set to first place and a 1-0 deficit in the second. An early 25-minute rain delay during the second set may have provided Gauff with some time to regroup.

However, Vondrousova was able to seize the lead and secure the victory with a serve of 6-5 in the second set. Gauff fractured there in order to remain there. Moreover, following a brief deficit in the third set, Gauff won five of the final six points of the match. Vondrousova recorded a 0–3 record during the group stage.

“Every match, you want to win, but I knew that I needed to get (at least) a set — and hopefully a win — to even have the chance to move on,” Gauff commented, “so I’m really happy I was able to buckle down and do my best to get through that.”

Thursday night, Sabalenka was defeated by Rybakina, who was on the verge of attempting to force a third set by serving for the second at 5-3. Upon their reunion, she proceeded to do so. However, Sabalenka prevailed in the decider, albeit with a touch of suspense in the final game: she needed to fend off five break points and four match points to seal the deal.

“Extremely difficult conditions and I’m ecstatic to have managed this victory despite everything,” said Sabalenka, who committed 15 double faults.

This was a rematch of the January Australian Open final, which Sabalenka had also won.

On Friday, Rybakina was eliminated with the loss.

A half-dozen rain delays occurred throughout Thursday’s cease-and-restart operation.

“There are so many ups and downs,” said the 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina.

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