Teen sensation, Coco Gauff contests her maiden WTA semi-final on Saturday when she takes on former top-ten star, Andrea Petkovic at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.
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It’s another big stride forward for American, Gauff, who had never reached a WTA quarter final prior to this week.
The 15-year-old turned heads at Wimbledon when she reached the second week, and backed it up by making the third round at the US Open, enhancing her reputation as one of the brightest prospects in the sport.
Gauff had to rely on some good fortune to get into the Linz main draw, as she lost to Tamara Korpatsch in the qualifying rounds, but she crept into the draw as a lucky loser, and has made the most of the opportunity.
The American took out Stefanie Voegele 6-3 7-5 in the first round before moving past Kateryna Kozlova in the second round, when the Ukrainian retired while trailing 2-0 in the deciding set. Gauff followed that up with the biggest win of her career, in terms of the ranking of her opponent, beating world No. 8, Kiki Bertens 7-6 6-4 to score her first ever top-ten win.
A tight first set featured just the one break point, saved by Bertens at 3-4, but Gauff accelerated through the tie break, winning six consecutive points from 1-1 to take the opening set. The American saved two break points in her opening service game of the second set, and then broke in the next game to take a 2-1 lead, an advantage she would not relinquish for the rest of the match.
“It was definitely crazy,” said Gauff, who will break into the top-100 when the rankings are updated on Monday. “Today was my first Top 10 win, so I’m super proud of myself for that. It was a good match, Kiki played great, and obviously I couldn’t ask for anything better so far in this tournament.”
“I guess [Linz is] my little lucky place,” Gauff added. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here, and I’m glad I was able to take the best of the opportunity. I got in as a lucky loser and I’m in the semis, so I hope I can keep this going.”
Next up for the teenager is former top-ten star, Andrea Petkovic, who is bidding for her first final since she claimed the Antwerp title in 2015.
Petkovic is also looking to snap a 0-2 run in Linz semi-finals, as she had fallen to Patty Schnyder in 2010, and lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova last season. That Linz result was part of a strong finish to last season, as she also made semi-finals in Washington and Guangzhou and quarter finals in Luxembourg, but she has had a very quiet 2019, as this is her first semi-final since last year’s run in Linz.
Petkovic is only 15-17 for the 2019 season, and had saved her best performances for the majors, prior to Linz. The German made the third round at Roland Garros and the US Open, but hadn’t won consecutive matches in any other tournaments until Linz.
The 32-year-old is yet to drop a set this week, beating Jil Teichmann 6-1 6-1; Julia Goerges 7-6 6-2; and Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-1 to take her place in the last four. The German is bidding to reach her 12th tour-level final, as she continues her quest for a seventh career title.
Now ranked 75th in the world, Petkovic first broke into the top ten in 2011, after reaching quarter finals in three of that year’s four majors, but she was troubled by injuries in 2012 and was out of the top 100 by the end of the season. She did well to get back into the top ten in 2015, ending the season at No. 24, but she has not been in the top 50 since October 2016.
Petkovic faces Coco Gauff for the first time on Saturday, with a spot in the Linz final on the line. While the 15-year-old Gauff will naturally be the sentimental favourite, Petkovic has generally had the more convincing week, moving through the draw in pretty dominant fashion.
I’d say she wins this if she plays as well as she has done all week, but Gauff was fine form against Bertens in her quarter final, and is perfectly capable of extending this milestone week into Sunday’s final.
Coco Gauff vs Andrea Petkovic is live from Linz on Saturday, 12 October from 2:00pm local time/ 1:00pm BST