Sports

Gauff eliminated, Swiatek rolls at WTA Finals

FORT WORTH, Texas — Tears gathered in Coco Gauff‘s eyes as she sat on the WTA Finals sideline during a changeover Thursday night after giving away a lead in what would become a 7-6 (6), 6-3 round-robin loss to Daria Kasatkina that ended the 18-year-old American’s hopes of reaching the semifinals.

Gauff, who is ranked No. 4, fell to 0-4 in her debut at the season-ending tournament for the best in women’s tennis — 0-2 in singles and 0-2 in doubles with Jessica Pegula. The Floridian was the youngest participant in both events at the WTA Finals since Anna Kournikova in 1999.

“I had a lot of chances. I didn’t play my best tennis today, but a lot to take from it, a lot to learn from it and hopefully do better next time,” Gauff said. “In both the [singles] matches, I had opportunities. I think I made a lot of unforced errors. So I think that’s something that I will have to clean up.”

Earlier Thursday, top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 by taking control with an eight-point run that launched a match-ending stretch in which she grabbed nine of 11 games.

“Pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Garcia said.

Swiatek has won all four sets she’s played so far while dropping a total of just 10 games.

“It’s the last tournament of the season, so I have kind of nothing to lose. I don’t have to worry what I’m going to do next,” Swiatek said. “So, yeah, for sure, I’m giving it 100%, physically and mentally.”

The results mean that Swiatek clinched a semifinal berth and that No. 6 Garcia will face No. 8 Kasatkina on Thursday for the other spot available in their group.

Kasatkina, whose best Grand Slam showing was a semifinal run at the French Open in June, started slowly Thursday, trailing 4-1 against Gauff, who was the runner-up in Paris. But Kasatkina began hitting more shots to Gauff’s forehand, her weaker side, and that paid dividends.

Kasatkina quickly accumulated five of six games to lead 6-5; that was the score when Gauff used a white towel to wipe away tears during a changeover. Gauff briefly righted things, breaking to force a tiebreaker that she led 3-0 and 4-2. But after saving Kasatkina’s initial pair of set points, Gauff relented on the third, putting a forehand into the net to close a 24-stroke exchange.

Gauff began the day 1-16 this season when ceding the first set, while Kasatkina came in 28-0 when claiming it, and those trends did not change.

Swiatek’s victory made her 14-1 against opponents ranked in the top 10 in 2022 — and those 14 wins were all in a row, the longest such single-season unbeaten streak on tour in 15 years.

Garcia is the only WTA Finals entrant who managed to defeat Swiatek this year — at the Poland Open in July, when Garcia was ranked just 45th — and the score was 3-all early Thursday

But Swiatek then raced through the end of that set and went up a break at 2-0 in the second.

Swiatek’s topspin-heavy forehand is probably her most dangerous shot, but her backhand was up to the task on this day — producing passing shots when Garcia went to the net or closing lengthier baseline exchanges with winners — and her serve grew stronger as the match wore on, including finishing with a 108 mph ace.

This was Swiatek’s tour-high 66th win of the year. The 21-year-old from Poland also leads with eight titles, including at the French Open and US Open.

“She was definitely the best this year,” Garcia said. “And she keeps proving it.”

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