The summer of Coco continues as 19-year-old Coco Gauff captured her second WTA title in a row on home soil with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Karolina Muchova at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. It was the fifth title of her young career and the biggest one to-date as it was her first-ever triumph at a WTA 1000 event.
While winning the final against Muchova was what sealed the deal for Gauff, her most impressive accomplishment all week was undoubtedly her semifinal win over World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who she defeated for the first time in eight tries by a score of 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4. That win in particular seems to have had an impact on how Gauff views herself as a top player on the WTA, given her post-match comments with the press.
“I'm really trying to cut this down as much as possible. So hopefully I can face her again and get the numbers up. But it feels really good. It wasn't necessarily like her as a player. I think it was just the moment playing players like her. I think it gives me confidence that I have the ability. I mean, she's a four-time Grand Slam champion, No. 1. It shows that I can be at that level or compete with that level at least.”
For her part, it was also a big week for Muchova who has now entered the Top Ten of the WTA for the first time in her career. After battling through injuries in recent years, a healthy Muchova has shown what she is capable of in 2023, having made the finals of Roland-Garros and carrying that fine form on hard courts as well.
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In the final, Muchova had little left in the tank from a physical perspective and admitted after the match that the first word that came to mind that morning when she woke up was, “ouch!”
After her semifinal win over Aryna Sabalenka, you could tell that Muchova was feeling the effects when she shared that, “It's tough. It's tough. I can feel it in my bones that I played all three-setters. Just yesterday I had a little time off. Obviously, my body feels it.”
She fought back from being down 2-5 in the second set to earn back one break, but Gauff held at love in the final game to get across the finish line.
Gauff was the more solid player in the one-hour, 56-minute championship match as she won 71 per cent of her first serves and hit 16 winners to 16 unforced errors. Muchova for her part won just 54 per cent of her first serve points and had 20 winners to 35 unforced errors.
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We should mention one important addition to Gauff’s arsenal this summer with the arrival of respected veteran coach Brad Gilbert to her team. He’s been on board for both recent tournament victories and is a former Cincinnati winner himself going back to 1989 when he beat Stefan Edberg for the title.
Still only 19 years old and with four of her five career titles coming on hard courts, Gauff has definitely positioned herself among the favourites at the US Open where you know the American crowd will be right behind her.
Rest of the Field
Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka will undoubtedly be among the favourites as well when the US Open approaches in a week, despite the fact that they fell just short of making the final in Cincinnati.
Swiatek was lethal in the opening rounds this past week where she trounced Danielle Collins 6-1, 6-0 in a match that had little resemblance to their close encounter recently in Montreal. She then dispatched talented rising star Qinwen Zheng 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 followed by a win against Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 7-6(3), 6-1.
Swiatek has failed to make the final at any of the big hard-court events so far in 2023 but has been in the semis of Indian Wells and Montreal.
Sabalenka has also been playing well lately and had straight-set victories over tough opponents like Daria Kasatkina and Ons Jabeur before being stopped by Muchova.
Some players in Cincinnati were definitely feeling the effects of the grueling schedule in Montreal the week before, as semifinalist at the OBN Elena Rybakina had to withdraw while up a set but trailing in the second against Jasmin Paolini in the sound of 16 and Jessica Pegula, the champ in Canada, fell 6-4, 6-0 at the hands of Marie Bouzkova.
There wasn’t much in terms of a Canadian presence in Cincinnati this year. Bianca Andreescu was recovering from a small stress fracture in her back while Leylah Annie Fernandez and Rebecca Marino both fell in qualifying.
Gaby Dabrowski played her second consecutive tournament with Erin Routliffe in what seems like an emerging partnership in women’s doubles. The duo fell in the round of 16.
In the final, the all-American tandem of Taylor Townsend and Alycia Parks captured the title with a 6-7(1), 6-4, 10-6 win over third seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez. The pair had themselves quite a week in Cincinnati where they knocked off the second, third, fourth and fifth seeds en route to the championship.
The 22-year-old Parks has one of the hardest serves in women’s tennis and has been finding success in recent times both in singles, where she is now Top 30 in the world, and in doubles as well where she is on the cusp of the top 40 of the rankings.
Townsend should be a familiar name for Canadian tennis fans as she often teams up with Leylah Annie Fernandez. She was also a regular contributor on Tennis Channel broadcasts during the time she off the tour on maternity leave.