Coco Gauff stuns Iga Swiatek with first career victory against World No 1 | Tennis

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Over the past two years of her young career, Coco Gauff had stared down Iga Swiatek eight times across three different continents. It is the most the 19-year-old has faced any opponent and on paper it should be a tantalising match-up between the undisputed No 1 and the highest-ranked teenager in the world.

Instead, from Gauff’s perspective, it had been a disaster. Not only had Gauff lost all seven of their meetings and all 14 of their sets before this week, but she wasn’t even close. In their last six meetings, Gauff averaged just four games per match.

But Gauff has made significant progress this summer and on Saturday afternoon, she produced the most significant victory of her career so far. After three tense, gripping sets across nearly three hours, Gauff kept her nerve as she toppled Swiatek 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 to reach her first career WTA 1000 final in Cincinnati.

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“I knew playing her was gonna be tough,” said Gauff to the Tennis Channel. “Nothing was going to be given to me today. I took my opportunities when I got them. I really just fought. I was a little bit negative in the second [set] but I got it back. I was telling myself: you’re a warrior and you can do this.”

Throughout their seven prior encounters, which included last year’s French Open final, Swiatek consistently dismantled Gauff by overpowering the American with her greater weaponry and piling relentless pressure on Gauff’s forehand until it inevitably collapsed.

Still, Gauff had reason to be more hopeful on Saturday. Since losing to the former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the first round of Wimbledon, Gauff has found her feet in the North American hard-court swing. She hired Brad Gilbert – the former coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick – alongside her new coach, Pere Riba, and they have helped Gauff to gain more confidence in her forehand by focusing on her footwork. Earlier this month, she won the biggest title of her career in Washington, a WTA 500 event.

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Iga Swiatek reaches for a backhand
Iga Swiatek (pictured) loses a tough three-set battle with Coco Gauff in Cincinnati. Photograph: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

“I really didn’t have any expectations,” said Gauff of her plans in North America after her Wimbledon loss. “I was telling myself that I’m putting the work in in practice and I do believe that hard work pays off – I don’t know when it’s gonna pay off but it’ll pay off eventually. I guess it’s paying off now. I told myself I can either let this crush me or make me rise. I decided to make myself rise from it.”

Despite trailing 3-5 in the opening set against and then facing two set points on her serve at 5-6, Gauff showed her toughness by imposing herself in the exchanges, her forehand holding up as she forced a tie-break. Having failed to take her chances, it was Swiatek who was visibly shaken, feeling the pressure and struggling to find her range as Gauff took her first ever set of the match-up.

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Swiatek’s inevitable response came quickly as she took control of the baseline, returning spectacularly and quickly forcing a third set. But under immense pressure, Gauff refused to buckle. She served incredibly well as the pair reached 3-3, then her supreme defence forced Swiatek to strike closer and closer to the lines until she eventually began to miss.

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After taking the decisive break to lead 4-3, Gauff navigated two incredibly difficult service games to close out the match. Although her first serve eluded her in the final moments, Gauff relentlessly attacked her second serve, normally a significant weakness, and she held on to secure a monumental win.

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Thank you for your feedback.

I was just saying: ‘I’m Coco Gauff and I can do it.’ That’s what I was going into the match [thinking]. Playing her, you have to give it your all. I felt it from the moment I stepped on to the court that I wasn’t going to lose this match today, even when the moments got tough. I was right, I guess.”

Gauff will next face Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion and No 2, or the French Open finalist Karolina Muchova.

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