NEW YORK -- Extending her exceptional summer run, Coco Gauff defeated Karolina Muchova 6-4, 7-5 on Thursday to earn a berth in Saturday's US Open final.
The sixth-seeded Gauff has won 11 straight matches, the best streak of her career, and 17 of 18, a stretch that includes titles in Washington D.C. and Cincinnati.
She’ll meet No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, who narrowly escaped No.17 Madison Keys in a third-set tiebreak in the second match of the night.
It was a tough match," Gauff said later in press. "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 match was delayed 49 minutes during the second set when a protest sent the players to the locker room.
To put Gauff’s victory in perspective, she is the youngest of the four semifinalists here -- by nearly six years. Gauff, 19, is also the youngest United States women’s player to appear in the final of the US Open since Serena Williams in 1999. She’s looking to become the fourth American woman to win the Open this century after Serena, her sister Venus and Sloane Stephens.
Moreover, Gauff is the youngest woman to appear in multiple Grand Slam finals (including 2020 Roland Garros) since Maria Sharapova (2004 Wimbledon and 2006 US Open) and the youngest American woman to do it since Monica Seles, from1990-93.
"I have been focusing more on myself and my expectations of myself," Gauff said. "Not going on social media. ... I really believe that now I have the maturity and ability to do it. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, I'm really proud of how I have been handling the last few weeks."
This result was not all that different from the matchup 18 days ago in Cincinnati, when Gauff came away a 6-3, 6-4 winner in the final.
For five years now -- when she’s been healthy -- No.10 Muchova has been one of the Hologic WTA Tour’s best and most fluid players.
She’s been to the quarterfinals of all four majors, and back in June pushed No.1 Iga Swiatek to three sets in the final of Roland Garros. Recently in Cincinnati, Muchova knocked out Sabalenka in the semifinals.
“She’s the type of player it’s so hard to get a rhythm,” Gauff said later on the set of ESPN. “In the second set she started to play more aggressive. I told myself, 'Just trust yourself in the moment. You’ve got to trust yourself.’”
Both Gauff and Muchova looked dominant in the quarters, registering a 6-0 opening set followed by the loss of only two and three games, respectively. Muchova entered Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a sleeve on her right arm, which for her fans at least, was concerning. She had won 11 of 13 previous major matches.
But it was Gauff jumping out early, winning her service game at love and breaking Muchova in the second game; both games featured lob winners for Gauff when Muchova ventured to net. Ten minutes in, it was 3-0. And soon, 5-1.
The seventh game began with a terrific point; Gauff won a sparkling rally with a running backhand -- but Muchova would score her first break to narrow it to 5-2. It happened again the next time, and Muchova served to level it at 5-all.
But that close to getting even, Muchova tightened up. Four unforced errors -- three of them backhands into the net -- gave Gauff the set. Muchova finished the frame with 17 unforced errors.
Gauff won the first game of the second when the protest occurred. Despite the delay, the players remained on serve until the eighth game. That was when Gauff took advantage of an ill-advised serve-and-volley from Muchova, punishing her with a forehand winner. When Muchova’s subsequent backhand found the net, Gauff led 5-3 but was broken serving for the match.
With Muchova serving at 5-6, Gauff squandered her second, third, fourth and fifth match points. But after a terrific 40-shot rally and another poor drop shot, Gauff converted her sixth when Muchova’s backhand soared long.