In an uneven, error-filled semifinal, Coco Gauff took down Karolina Muchova for a second time in as many months scoring a 6-4, 7-5 win to reach the US Open final.
“I told myself just trust yourself in the moment,” said Gauff who won a 40-point rally to set up a 6th match point which she finally cashed in.
“It was a tough match,” she added. “I had leads, lost it. It was a lot of emotional, I guess, challenges in the match. But I think I did a good job of staying focused.”
The 19-year-old roared out to a quick 5-1 in the first set before a nervous-looking Muchova settled down and began to find the teen’s weaker forehand.
Muchova, who lost to Gauff last month in Cincinnati, clawed he way back winning three straight games. Serving at 4-5, Muchova was broken at love.
Gauff held in the second and the play was stopped for nearly an hour as security had to get a protester out of the stadium. A group of climate change activists held up the match and the last member had glued his bare feet to the concrete below his seat.
The delay, during which the player left the court, didn’t change much in the match. Muchova continued to pick on the Gauff backhand while the American went after the Muchova backhand. Muchova also struggled with her net game and ultimately it was all too much as Gauff prevailed.
“I could talk to my coaches,” Muchova said of the break. “They were trying to wake me up. I think then after the break I actually played a little bit better, but it was not enough to play great against Coco, to beat her.”
Gauff is now 17-1 this summer under new coach Brad Gilbert who led Andy Roddick to US Open glory exactly 20 years ago.
“One hundred percent, I wasn’t thinking those results would happen,” Gauff said. “Even after D.C., I didn’t think this would happen. Even after Cincy, I didn’t think this would happen. I’m really proud of myself, and like I said, there is still a long way to go.
“I think I can improve a lot, but how I have been able to manage with the game I have now is something that I’m happy with.”
Madison Keys looked like she would make it an all-American final. The 2017 runner-up led soon-to-be No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka 6-0, 5-3 before things fell apart and the Belarussian roared back taking two breakers to win it 0-6, 7-6(1), 7-6[10-5].
Both players were appearing their third US Open semifinal, but Sabalenka hadn’t dropped a set this week until getting blanked. Then Keys began to feel the nerves trying to serve it out and the Australian Open champion took advantage.
Up 6-3 in the final set breaker, Sabalenka won the point, dropped the racquet and began to celebrate like she had won only to be reminded that the breaker went to 10.
Instead of losing a lead like she had many times before, Sabalenka was now on the other end.
Sabalenka is now a perfect 13-0 this year on hard court Slams. She’s also won 16 of her last 18 matches at the US Open. It’s her second Grand Slam final.
It’s also Gauff’s second after coming up short at the French last year.
“In my final at the French Open, I think I put too much on the moment and on Saturday I’m gonna go out there and just play like it’s another tennis match. I approached the match today like that. I told myself I’m just gonna go out there, have fun and play the tennis I know how to play,” Gauff said.
Gauff has won three of five against Sabalenka but the Belarussian won most recently quite easily at Indian Wells.
“She’s an unbelievable player,” Sabalenka said on court of Gauff. “She playing really incredible tennis here at the US Open. And yeah, the crowd will be supporting her a lot.
“I’ll just go there and do everything I can,” she said. “I’ll be fighting for every point and I’ll do my best.”
Saturday, one of these women becomes a US Open champion.
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