Dominant Gauff sweeps aside Gracheva to make Auckland semis

BRISBANE : Coco Gauff swept aside Varvara Gracheva 6-1 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Auckland Classic on Friday as the U.S. Open champion continued her impressive buildup to the first Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park.

Rain delayed the start of the match but once play began Gauff needed only 53 minutes to see off her French rival. The 19-year-old has not dropped a set in her title defence and did not face a single break point on Friday.

The world number three raced through the opening set and took a 4-0 lead in the second before Gracheva held serve, and with dark clouds gathering once again Gauff was quick to wrap up a victory which pits her against Emma Navarro in an all-American semi-final.

“I was focusing on playing my game,” Gauff said.

“I thought I served really well, probably the best so far in the tournament, which is something I’ve been working on off-season. I’m really happy with how I played.

“I’m glad I was able to finish my match (before it could rain).”

At the Brisbane International, another warm-up tournament for the Jan. 14-28 Australian Open, Victoria Azarenka beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 3-6 7-5 to make the last four.

“With Jelena sometimes you just have to put on a helmet and try to stay in there,” said Azarenka, who next faces Aryna Sabalenka or Daria Kasatkina.

“But she’s an incredible player, we’ve seen that many times. She’s a Grand Slam champion, she proved many times that she can beat anyone on any given day.”

In the men’s section, Rafa Nadal, playing his first tournament after a lengthy injury layoff, will take on Australian Jordan Thompson later in the day for a place in the last four.

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