Coco Gauff sets up blockbuster Cincinnati clash with Naomi Osaka

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Cincinnati (US), Aug 18 (IANS) Coco Gauff of the United States reached the second round of the Western & Southern Open after dispatching veteran Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei, 6-1, 6-2, to set up a blockbuster showdown with No.2 seed Naomi Osaka here on Wednesday.

World No. 14 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who won the title when the event was played in New York last season, got past big-hitting Russian Liudmila Samsonova, 6-2, 6-3, in their first-round battle.

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In their first meeting, 17-year-old Coco fended off the challenge of 35-year-old Hsieh to claim a spot in the second round of the event for the first time in her career, after exactly an hour of play.

Coco had 20 winners to 16 unforced errors, while Hsieh’s 11 winners were undone by 19 unforced errors. Gauff also took utmost advantage on break points, converting five of six on the day.

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“I think I did well just focusing on my side of the court,” Coco said after her win. “She hits a crazy shot, and trying to not let that get into my head, because she’s talented and she will hit great shots.”

It will be a all-star clash as Coco will take on Naomi Next. They will be facing off for the third time, with each of their meetings taking place at a top hardcourt event. Naomi defeated Coco in the third round of the 2019 US Open, 6-3, 6-0, but at the next major, Coco got her revenge in the same round, beating Naomi 6-3, 6-4 in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open.

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“I definitely did learn a lot from both matches (against Naomi), actually. The second match, I learned that I can perform well under the pressure, and that I do have a lot more fun on the court when I try not to focus on the expectations of other people and myself, whereas I didn’t really find that I guess balance until that Australian Open match,” said Coco.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, who also claimed the 2013 title in Cincinnati, quelled a late surge by the rising Russian Liudmila to earn victory after a relatively routine hour and nine minutes of play.

It was sweet revenge for Azarenka, who fell to Liudmila during the Russian’s breakthrough grass-court season earlier in the summer. Liudmila beat Azarenka en route to her maiden WTA singles title on the lawns of Berlin, then reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon as a wildcard.

In another match, Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan ousted former US Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the second round. Three-time Western & Southern Open runner-up Simona Halep of Romania overcame injury, rain and an impressive Magda Linette of Poland to seal her first win since May, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The No.12 seed had been sidelined for three months after sustaining a calf muscle tear in the second round of Rome against Germany’s Angelique Kerber. She returned to action only last week in Montreal, where she fell to Danielle Collins of the US 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in her opener.



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