AUCKLAND, New Zealand - 15-year-old Coco Gauff kicked off her 2020 season the same way she ended the previous one: with a victory. The No.68 player in the world grabbed her first win of the year in confident style at the ASB Classic in Auckland, taking down Viktoria Kuzmova in straight sets.
Playing in the Auckland main draw for the first time, Gauff battled through blustery conditions to score a 6-3, 6-1 win, striking 15 winners and hitting four aces along the way.
“It’s definitely the windiest match I’ve played, but I’ve practised in windier,” she said afterwards. “It’s hard to get used to, but in Florida, we get windy days like this.
“During the off season, we had a whole week like this, so I was prepared for it. You can never get used to something like this, but I think I was more prepared for it than my opponent. I adjusted to it. It was OK – I had fun still.
“I felt confident, I feel like I’m moving well. I had a good offseason, and I think that’s showing in my matches.”
The youngest member of the WTA’s Top 100, Gauff’s rapid rise kicked off in earnest last season when the American teenager famously tore through the qualifying draw at Wimbledon and battled into the fourth round - taking down Venus Williams in the process. She didn’t stop there, backing up the wins on the US hardcourts and eventually lifting her first WTA trophy in Linz.
Up against 21-year-old Kuzmova in Auckland, Gauff continued to prove why she’s become one to watch despite her young age. She kept the Slovakian on her toes throughout the 62-minute encounter, striking big, clean winners off both wings and switching up the pace with well-disguised dropshots.
After grinding through a tight opening game - needing to fend off an early break chance from Kuzmova - Gauff quickly established a lead. She stepped into the court to break confidently at 2-0, and kept the pressure on her opponent.
She didn’t let up after that, staying in front and dodging another break-back point from Kuzmova. The American comfortably served out the opening set, and carried that momentum into the second, where she built up a commanding 4-0, double-break lead against her increasingly frustrated opponent.
Gauff continued to read Kuzmova’s game and stay one step ahead, fighting off a third break point and painting the lines with her powerful groundstrokes. A Kuzmova error into the net sealed the victory for Gauff after a hard-fought 62-minutes on court.
The young American bossed proceedings throughout the match, striking 15 winners and keeping a positive differential to her 10 unforced errors. She was lethal on break points, too, converting all four of her opportunities. Gauff’s serve was unbroken across both sets, saving all three break points faced - an impressive feat in the swirling, gusting winds in Auckland.
Next up for the 15-year-old, Gauff awaits the winner between Laura Siegemund or Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round.