Gauff, Pegula ready to challenge Swiatek | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Gauff, Pegula ready to challenge Swiatek

Aug 27, 2023 11:08 AM IST

Friends and doubles partners, they arrive at the US Open with young Gauff having won at Montreal and Pegula in Cincinnati

Not since Sloane Stephens’ memorable run in 2017 has there been an American woman singles champion at the US Open. And not since Serena Williams, in her last Grand Slam final in 2019, has an American fought for the title at Flushing Meadows. The form of Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula in recent weeks though raises hopes of a home favourite lifting the trophy this time.

Iga Swiatek of Poland fields questions from the media during the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (Getty Images via AFP) PREMIUM
Iga Swiatek of Poland fields questions from the media during the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (Getty Images via AFP)

Though she lost in the semi-final at the build-up events – Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters – holder and world No.1 Iga Swiatek remains the title favourite. The 22-year-old has shown the ability to bounce back and has the firepower to dominate on the hard court.

Gauff and Pegula, doubles partners also, too will fancy their chances after winning in Montreal and Cincinnati respectively.

Gauff could pose the biggest threat to Swiatek, both drawn in the same quarter. With three titles, the 19-year-old is enjoying her most successful season. She won at Auckland Open and claimed her first WTA 500 title at Washington.

Her biggest victory though was a first WTA 1000 title in Cincinnati. She did that by getting her first win in eight meetings against Swiatek. Gauff has struggled for consistency in her young career with questions raised over her technique too, but things seem to be falling into place. She lost in the Wimbledon first round but two titles in August has marked a big turnaround.

“I trust the work I've done in practice. I hope I can continue to translate that into matches,” said Gauff ahead of the US Open. “It's impossible to stay up all the time. That's really where the mindset has changed. Sometimes I'll let a loss get too much into me. I realise that everybody loses, even the best of the best. I think that I really have to learn from those mistakes and apply it into future matches.”

Pegula will also be full of confidence having beaten Gauff and Swiatek to win her first title of the year in Montreal. The 29-year-old is the only player on the WTA Tour with six quarter-final appearances on hard court this year, but she is yet to reach a Grand Slam semi-final despite making the last eight six times.

“The depth is too good now,” said Pegula. “If you try to get ahead of yourself, you can really get caught up. Taking it one match at a time tends to work for me. I think that’s the best way to look at it, at least for me. It’s a long two weeks. Every day you're going to feel different.”

Two powerful ball-strikers, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, too will be in contention.

Rybakina has a more straightforward path to the semi-finals, but her recent form isn’t promising. The 2022 Wimbledon champion felt “destroyed” because of the Canadian Open scheduling and went on to lose in the Round of 16 at Cincinnati. The US Open has been her weakest Slam so far, but finishing runner-up at the Australian Open and winning at Indian Wells earlier this year are proof of her hard-court prowess.

Having won the Australian Open, Sabalenka will be confident of going deep despite having Ons Jabeur, US Open runner-up last year, in her quarter. Jabeur pulled out of the Canadian Open with a knee injury and lost to Sabalenka in straight sets in the Cincinnati quarters.

Sabalenka has been one of the most consistent players on tour and held the No.2 rank since January. The 25-year-old has the game to thrive on hard courts and will be determined to finally take the top spot from Swiatek.

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