American teenager Coco Gauff charged to her second career WTA singles title at the Emilia-Romagna Open on Saturday, dispatching Wang Qiang, 6-1, 6-3 in the final in Parma.
The No.3 seed Gauff needed just an hour and 14 minutes to turn back the challenge from the No.6 seed from China and add to her singles title collection, which she started as a lucky loser at 2019 Linz.
Gauff, 17, has excelled on the clay courts in Italy over the past fortnight, with a semifinal run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia last week leading into a romp to the trophy this week. Gauff dropped only one set en route to her title in Parma.
"It definitely means a lot, especially on clay, which is not really a surface I feel like people associate with me," Gauff told the press after she followed up her singles win with a second victory of the day in the doubles final.
"I always liked [clay], but I always fall on it, I always get dirty! I have good results on it, so it’s not about my performance. It’s just that clay shows you a little extra love than the other surfaces do."
Currently ranked at a career-high World No.30 and projected to rise even higher after this victory, Gauff has won 20 of her past 26 matches. By contrast, she won 21 matches in 2019 and 2020 combined.
Gauff won over three-quarters of her first-service points and fended off each and every one of the four break points she faced in her first encounter with Wang.
"I think I did well in engaging every point and pushing [Wang] back," Gauff said. "I know she normally likes to be aggressive. One of the main goals for me was just to be able to push her back and set up the shots I like to hit."
Wang had a resurgent week in Parma, as the former World No.12 was just 4-11 on the year coming into the event. Wang broke through to her fifth career singles final -- her first since 2018 -- but was unable to win her third career title, and her first outside of her home country of China.
Gauff excelled from the backhand side as she surged to an early 3-0 lead in the encounter. Wang charged back from 0-30 down in the next game to hold her serve, but that would be it for the Chinese player in the opener, as Gauff regularly came out on top in increasingly lengthy rallies.
Serving for the set at 5-1, Gauff found herself down double break point after two consecutive double faults, but the American powered her way out of that jam with superb groundstrokes. She then fended off a third break point in that game before coming up with a service winner to obtain the one-set lead.
A backhand winner down the line allowed Gauff to save a break point and hold for 2-2 in the second set, and the teenager took charge after that close call, breaking for 3-2. Nevertheless, Wang’s groundstrokes were more accurate and hefty in the second set as she kept it closer than the first.
Still, it was Gauff who went untested on serve from that point forward, as she used an array of groundstroke winners to slide to a 5-3 lead. Another beautiful backhand forced an error from Wang to end the match, and Gauff ended the day with 21 winners to Wang’s 11.
Gauff made it a clean sweep of the titles in Parma, as she paired with Caty McNally to win the doubles championship later in the day. The 4th-seeded team defeated No.2 seeds Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac, 6-3, 6-2 to win the final.
"I feel like all week I just was thinking about it," Gauff said. "Especially when we got to the semifinals, you’re thinking about it, like, ‘It would be pretty cool to win both the singles and doubles titles.’ Happy that I was able to do that today."
At 17 years, 70 days old, Gauff is the youngest player to sweep the singles and doubles titles at an event since Maria Sharapova won both titles at 2004 Birmingham, at 17 years, 55 days old. Sharapova completed the sweep 92 days after Gauff was born.
Gauff and McNally improved to 3-0 in doubles titles as a team, adding to their 2019 titles in Washington D.C. and Luxembourg. McNally also has a fourth doubles title, which she won with Hailey Baptiste earlier this season at the MUSC Health Women's Open in Charleston.
The Americans broke Jurak and Klepac six times en route to the 66-minute victory in the Italian evening, helped along by winning 62 percent of return points during the clash.