OSTAVA, Czech Republic - American qualifier Coco Gauff overcame a stern test at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, fighting past home hope Katerina Siniakova in straight sets on her way to the second round.
Gauff had to fight through two rounds of qualifying matches to reach the main draw in Ostrava, her first tournament since the French Open. After posting early exits in Rome and Paris, Gauff looked right at home in the indoor hardcourts - similar conditions as Linz last year, where the American claimed her first WTA title at 15 years old.
But she faced a major challenge from Siniakova, trailing by a break three times in the first set before edging through in two, 7-5, 6-4 in an hour and 36 minutes.
“It wasn’t my best and it wasn’t my worst,” Gauff assessed in her post-match press conference. “I would say it was more like, around lower-middle. I didn’t start off the best, I mean I got broken at love in the first game.
“But I just kept fighting and I stayed in there. I didn’t get to hit on Center Court before my match, so [at the beginning] I was just getting used to it.”
Siniakova stayed aggressive on the return to start and indeed broke Gauff to love in the first game - but the 16-year-old responded right away and, setting the tone for the first set she broke straight back to level the score, 1-1.
Gauff had to fight back from a break deficit three times across the rollercoaster first set, with Siniakova serving for the set at 5-4. The American stayed calm and raised her level to break back once again, reeling off the next two games to close out the set, 7-5.
It was an entirely different story in the second set, which saw no breaks of serve across the first nine games. Gauff held firm to shake off two break chances early in the set, 2-1, and kept pace with the Czech wildcard before finally breaking through to close out the set, 6-4 and take her spot in the second round.
“It’s different because she doesn’t have the crowd support that she’s probably used to when playing at her home tournament,” Gauff reflected after the victory. “You definitely need to cheer yourself on more, pump yourself up more than normally.
“It really takes me back to Juniors, when we didn’t have any big crowds or anything. But for me it’s more weird to play in an empty stadium than in an empty outside court… it’s kind of awkward,” she added with a laugh.
Photo gallery: In pictures: The story of Ostrava 2020
Into the second round at the inaugural event, Gauff will face a familiar foe in her next contest as she’s set up a rematch with No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka. Gauff stunned the Belarusian player two months ago in Lexington, winning 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.
“She swings big and she has a great serve, and hits the ball big,” Gauff assessed. So I know I have to, when I get my opportunities, to just step in there and take them. I want to go out there and have fun and just see what I can do.”