Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek win their WTA Finals opening matches in straight sets

Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek win their WTA Finals opening matches in straight sets
Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek win their WTA Finals opening matches in straight sets

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - CANCUN, Mexico: US Open champion Coco Gauff earned the first WTA Finals victory of her career on Monday night, breezing past three-time major runner-up Ons Jabeur 6-0, 6-1 in a round-robin match interrupted for a little more than an hour by rain.

Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida, went 0-3 in singles at the season-ending championship in 2022.

“After the rain delay, I was just focused on keeping my foot on the gas pedal,” said Gauff, who next will face Iga Swiatek, a 7-6 (3), 6-0 winner against Marketa Vondrousova.

“I’m just happy,” Gauff said, “to finally get a win here in this event.”

She is in Cancun with Brad Gilbert, who was one of her two coaches during the run of 12 consecutive victories — and 18 in 19 matches — that culminated with her first Grand Slam title in New York in September. The other coach at Flushing Meadows, Pere Riba, is no longer part of Gauff’s team.

“It wasn’t my decision. But we had to end the partnership. But I had a great time with him and I wish him the best in this next chapter,” Gauff explained. “If it was up to me, I would have loved to have him here. But you know, things happen. Life happens. So no bad terms on our end.”

Against Jabeur, Gauff quickly grabbed the first seven games — using a 9-0 advantage in winners to help accumulate a 29-10 edge in points — before play was halted because of the weather. When they resumed, Jabeur held serve to claim her first game and make it 1-all in the second set.

But she wouldn’t gain another.

After one shanked forehand in the second set, Jabeur spiked her racket off the temporary outdoor hard court that has drawn so much criticism from the players in Cancun. Later, she dumped a backhand return into the net and bounced her racket again.

It wasn’t until the last game that Jabeur finally earned a break point — three in all. Gauff saved each of those and then converted her fourth match point when Jabeur sent a forehand wide.

“Not my best day on the court,” Jabeur said. “But, yeah, that’s tennis sometimes, unfortunately.”

Earlier Monday, Swiatek climbed out of a 5-2 hole early against Vondrousova and dominated the second set. Both women then added their voices to the chorus of complaints about the playing conditions.

“For sure,” Swiatek said, “it’s not comfortable.”

Swiatek, who won the French Open in June for her third Grand Slam title, is ranked No. 2 and has a chance to overtake Aryna Sabalenka at No. 1, depending on their results this week.

Sabalenka is also among the players who have said the court built for the event is not satisfactory. Vondrousova called it “honestly very bad.”

The WTA said the court meets its standards.

The left-handed Vondrousova, the reigning Wimbledon champion, broke in three of Swiatek’s initial four service games and served for that set at 5-2 and 5-4. But Swiatek began turning things around and grabbed 13 of 17 points in one stretch. What became a four-game run put Swiatek ahead 6-5.

“I just wanted to be more precise and more solid and not play risky,” Swiatek said.

At 3-all in the tiebreaker, Swiatek took over for good. She smacked a big forehand winner, collected a service winner and hit her first ace of the evening to get to set point, before Vondrousova double-faulted to end it.

That set took 64 minutes. The second lasted just 35, with Swiatek holding a 27-9 edge in points.

“She was playing amazing,” Vondrousova said, “and there was nothing much to do.”

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