American Coco Gauff clinches first U.S. Open final appearance

Coco Gauff returns a ball to Karolina Muchova in a women's semifinal match at the 2023 U.S. Open on Thursday in Flushing, N.Y. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

1 of 5 | Coco Gauff returns a ball to Karolina Muchova in a women’s semifinal match at the 2023 U.S. Open on Thursday in Flushing, N.Y. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 8 (UPI) — American teen tennis phenom Coco Gauff continued her recent dominance, sweeping semifinal foe Karolina Muchova and advancing to her first U.S. Open final with a straight-sets win on Day 11 of the Grand Slam.

Gauff broke Muchova’s serve five times in the 6-4, 7-5 victory Thursday in Flushing, N.Y. The No. 6 player in the world needed two hours and 10 minutes to dispatch of her No. 10 foe.

The 19-year-old from Delray Beach, Fla., will meet No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the 2023 U.S. Open final Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I’ve just been focusing on myself,” Gauff, ranked No. 6, told reporters. “I really believe that now I have the maturity and ability to do it. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, I’m really proud of how I’ve been handling the last few weeks.”

Gauff won the first three games of the match, breaking Muchova’s serve in the second. She held her serve in the fifth game and broke Muchova again in the sixth for a 5-1 lead.

Muchova broke Gauff’s serve in the seventh game, held in the eighth and broke Gauff again in the ninth to tighten the match. Gauff then broke Muchova’s serve to win the set.

Gauff held serve in the first game of the second set. The match was then delayed for 45 minutes, due to environmental protestors in the stands, but Gauff maintained momentum.

Gauff held in her next three service games and broke Muchova in the eighth for a 5-3 lead. Muchova responded by breaking Gauff’s serve in the ninth. Gauff answered by holding in the 11th and breaking Muchova’s serve in the final game. She claimed match point when her Czech foe hit a backhand return past the baseline.

Gauff, who made her previous loan Grand Slam final appearance at the 2022 French Open, was a 2022 U.S. Open quarterfinalist.

Environmental protesters force a stop in play during a semifinal match between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova at the 2023 U.S. Open on Thursday in Flushing, N.Y. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Sabalenka, 25, advanced with a 0-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5) victory over No. 17 Madison Keys of the United States. The Belarusian logged a dozen aces, 35 winners and converted 3 of 10 break point opportunities.

Keys totaled three aces, 32 winners and converted 6 of 11 break point chances in the 2-hour, 32-minute match.

Keys, a five-time Grand Slam semifinals appearance still looking for her first title, appeared on track to make her second U.S. Open final appearance early on. She broke Sabalenka’s serve three times in a dominant first set performance.

Sabalenka held serve for the first time to open the second set. Keys broke her serve for a fourth time in the third game for a 2-1 edge. Sabalenka logged her first break point in the fourth game, tying the score. Keys then snatched the lead back by breaking Sabalenka and holding serve for a 4-2 edge.

Each player held their serve through the next three games. Sabalenka then earned another lead after breaking Keys in the 10th and holding serve in the 11th game of the second set. She went on to claim the tie break and win the set.

Keys and Sabalenka each held their serves through the first four games of the final set. Keys held again in the fifth and broke Sabalenka in the sixth for a 4-2 edge. Sabalenka responded by breaking Keys’ serve in the seventh and holding in the eighth, tying the set 4-4.

They each held over the next four games, forcing another tiebreak. Sabalenka went on to claim match point when Keys hit a forehand return long of the baseline.

Sabalenka, the 2023 Australian Open champion, also will be making her U.S. Open final debut when she meets Gauff on Saturday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Gauff owns a 3-2 record in five meetings with Sabalenka, but the Belarusian beat the American in straight sets in their most recent meeting, a quarterfinal match at the 2023 BNP Paribas Open on March 15 in Indian Wells, Calif.

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark reacts during a match she ultimately lost to Coco Gauff of the United States in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, on September 3, 2023. Wozniacki, a former world No. 1, retired from professional tennis in 2020 and had two children — Olivia in 2021 and James in 2020. She returned to the tour last month. Photo by Larry Marano/UPI | License Photo

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