In a showdown between two of the most decorated American players of this decade so far, No.1 seed Coco Gauff defeated 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic.
After lengthy rain delays eventually forced the entirety of this match indoors, it was the World No.7 Gauff who prevailed in 1 hour and 23 minutes to reach her first Auckland quarterfinal in her second appearance at the tournament.
Kenin had beaten Gauff in their only prior encounter, which came en route to her Australian Open title three years ago. Kenin notched a comeback win over Gauff in the Round of 16 that fortnight on her way to her Grand Slam crown.
But Gauff exacted her revenge on the indoor courts in New Zealand on Thursday, firing nine aces and saving six of the seven break points she faced. Gauff had eight more winners and 14 fewer unforced errors than Kenin in the clash.
Gauff built a 4-1 lead in the opening set, but the 2022 Roland Garros finalist failed to serve out the set at 5-3, allowing Kenin back on serve. However, Gauff quickly reclaimed her advantage, breaking her opponent for the one-set lead after a Kenin forehand flew long on set point.
In the second set, there were no service breaks through 5-4. In that game, though, Kenin failed to convert three game points, and Gauff earned a match point by forcing an error with her strong backhand. Gauff converted that chance after one final Kenin forehand went long.
NEVER. GIVE. UP. 👏— wta (@WTA) January 5, 2023
Zhu Lin outlasts Venus Williams 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a roller coaster match to reach the quarterfinals!#ASBClassic pic.twitter.com/8T7G9Fgryp
Gauff's quarterfinal opponent will be Zhu Lin of China, who posted her second come-from-behind victory of the week by ousting Venus Williams 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
No.84 Zhu saved a match point in her first-round victory over Madison Brengle, and she pulled off another comeback over an American by charging back from 5-3 down in the final set against 2015 ASB Classic champion Williams.
Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams was down a break when a one-hour rain delay came at 2-1 in the opening set. But after the players returned to Stadium Court, Williams swept through five of the next six games to take the one-set lead.
In the second set, Zhu battled to a 4-2 lead before the rain returned. The match resumed two-and-a-half hours later indoors, where Zhu swiftly tied the match at one set apiece.
Williams fired a rally crosscourt forehand winner to go up a break at 3-2 in the third set, edging closer to her first tour-level quarterfinal since 2019. However, Williams was quickly broken when serving for the match at 5-4.
At 5-5, Zhu deployed a number of magical plays, including two winning drop shots, to save four break points and hold for 6-5.
Video: Zhu Lin saves key break points en route to win over Venus Williams
That proved to be decisive as Zhu broke Williams for the eighth time to capture the victory, reeling off the last four games of the match in the process.
Kuzmova advances as injured Raducanu retires
Slovakian qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova, ranked World No.134, moved into the quarterfinals after 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu retired from their match due to injury at the start of the third set. The final score was 0-6, 7-5, ret.
Great Britain's Raducanu raced through the bagel first set in just 22 minutes, but the second set was much more competitive from the start as Kuzmova hung with the former World No.10 in their first meeting.
Kuzmova served for the set at 5-4 but double-faulted that chance away to drop serve at love. However, Raducanu dropped serve again in the next game, where she slipped on court during the first point. Kuzmova fired two consecutive aces to wrap up the set in the following game.
Raducanu had her left ankle examined during a medical time-out between sets, and the Brit only contested one point in the decider before stopping the match.
Kuzmova, an Auckland semifinalist in 2019, will face No.7 seed Danka Kovinic in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Fernandez drops one game to book quarterfinal spot
Leylah Fernandez needed just 45 minutes to advance to the quarterfinals, defeating Austrian Julia Grabher 6-0, 6-1. Fernandez has enjoyed a dominant pair of matches to open her season, having lost a total of just three games. She defeated Brenda Fruhvirtova 6-1, 6-1 in her opener.
Fernandez will face Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure, who defeated Rebecca Marino 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to make the fifth WTA quarterfinal of her career. The Belgian is bidding to make her first WTA semifinal.