2023 WTA Finals: Gauff advances to set all-American SF vs. Pegula
Coco Gauff emerged from a wind-whipped and rain-interrupted battle against Marketa Vondrousova with a priceless victory that ultimately earned her a place in the knockout rounds of the 2023 WTA Finals.
The American's 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3 triumph on Friday finalized her group-stage record at 2-1, a mark that saw her advance to the semifinals in Cancun after group-winner Iga Swiatek defeated Ons Jabeur later in the night. As the second-place finisher in the Chetumal Group, Gauff will meet the undefeated winner of the Bacalar Group—her doubles partner and good friend Jessica Pegula—in an all-American semifinal on Saturday evening.
The 19-year-old Gauff is the first teenager to advance to the knockout rounds at the WTA Finals since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009. She is bidding for her fifth tour-level singles title of the 2023 season and her first since claiming her maiden major trophy at the US Open.
In a matchup of the WTA's two most recent Grand Slam champions, Gauff surrendered leads of 4-1 and 5-3 in the second set and had to stop Vondrousova from serving out the match at 6-5. By ratcheting up her aggression, she forced a tiebreak and—soon after—forced a deciding set.
More attacking tennis and several well-timed net approaches helped her stay on top in the final frame, which she won behind a mid-set break to love.
"I felt like I needed to hit through the court," said Gauff, who is now 3-0 against the Czech. "She's a very tricky player. When you play her pace and let her move you side to side it's tough. And I've played her, it's my third time, so I know that.
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"But obviously, in the wind, it's tough to be as aggressive as you want, because the bounces are weird and the ball was moving. So I'm glad I made that adjustment and didn't get too frustrated when I missed. You pay the price for hopefully a good reward."
On Saturday, Gauff and Pegula will contest the first all-American semifinal at the WTA Finals since the reintroduction of the round-robin format in 2003. Both players are through to the knockout rounds for the first time in their second appearance at the year-end event, following winless debuts for both in 2022.
Pegula owns a 2-1 head-to-head edge over Gauff. The pair split two 2023 meetings, both quarterfinals, with Gauff winning in Eastbourne before Pegula triumphed en route to the Montreal title.
Gauff and Pegula could also advance to the doubles semifinals in Cancun. Seeking their first team win of the tournament, they led Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 1-1, before rain halted play on Friday night. That match will resume on Saturday evening, with a potential semifinal against Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens to follow.