No.3 seed Coco Gauff made a victorious China Open debut, advancing 7-5, 6-3 past Ekaterina Alexandrova in 1 hour and 22 minutes to reach the second round.
Freshly-crowned US Open champion Gauff extended her winning streak to 13 matches, dating back to her Montreal quarterfinal loss to Jessica Pegula. The 19-year-old American has won 19 out of 20 matches since her Wimbledon first-round loss to Sofia Kenin.
Gauff also improves her record against Top 20 opposition in 2023 to 12-6 overall. But a measure of her improvement over the second half of the season is the breakdown of those numbers: through Roland Garros, Gauff went 2-5 against Top 20 players. Since then, she has won 10 out of 11 matches against them, with the only loss coming to Pegula.
The result also avenged Gauff's 6-4, 6-0 loss to Alexandrova in the second round of Berlin on grass in June. Overall, she is now 2-1 against Alexandrova, and has won both of their hard-court meetings.
Gauff will next face former World No.14 Petra Martic, whom she defeated 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in their only previous meeting, in the second round of Adelaide 2021.
How the match was won: Momentum swung wildly in the first set, which saw Gauff race out to a 4-0 lead before Alexandrova found her groove to level at 4-4. But the World No.20, fresh off a run to the Tokyo quarterfinals last week, was plagued by inconsistency on her serve and groundstrokes throughout.
Alexandrova fired 19 winners to Gauff's 11, but also tallied 24 unforced errors -- including six double faults -- to Gauff's 11. The 28-year-old's mistakes often came at inopportune times, too. Having worked so hard to get back into the first set, Alexandrova coughed up two double faults and a netted backhand serving at 5-6. At the start of the second set, she missed break points in each of Gauff's first two service games.
By contrast, Gauff rose to the occasion on important points. Having been gifted triple set point in the first set, she converted her second with her best rally of the set, finishing with a backhand winner down the line. In the second, she pounced in the sixth game, rattling off three brilliant winners to take a decisive 4-2 lead.
In Gauff's words: "I didn't think my level was the best it could be.
"She was giving me a lot of errors so I don't think the 4-0 was completely my tennis. I think once I got to that point, I definitely started making more unforced errors. I think I had a point for 40-15 and I double-faulted. I was able to buckle down when I needed to. But obviously I think in these moments I want to do better in closing out those sets when I'm up, especially a double break.
"Overall I'm happy with how I was able to push through. Is it how I like to play? Probably not. But I knew coming in was going to be tough, just coming from across the world. This is the first time here. I knew it was going to be a tough match for me regardless. Especially Alexandrova, she's a great player. I'm happy with how I was able to manage."