We are now at finals weekend at the US Open with two women remaining to face off for the title on Saturday night. Incoming No.1 Aryna Sabalenka can cap off an amazing fortnight with her second slam of the year while Coco Gauff is in a final for the second time, having made it there in last year’s French Open too. Gauff actually leads the head-to-head 3-2 although the new and improved Sabalenka destroyed the American at Indian Wells this year, winning 6-4 6-0.
After an opening week of scrappy performances, Gauff has been much improved in the last few matches. She dropped just two games against Jelena Ostapenko and dealt well with the trickery of Karolina Muchova in the semi finals, eventually coming through 6-4 7-5 in a match delayed by protests. “I really believe that now I have the maturity and ability to do it. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, I’m really proud of how I have been handling the last few weeks.”
Sabalenka pulled off one of her most impressive and potentially meaningful victories on Thursday night, coming from 0-6 3-5 down to eventually down Madison Keys 0-6 7-6 7-6 and earn her spot in the final. The impact of a third straight blown slam semi as a favourite could have been potentially damaging for the new No.1 but she managed to avoid it, showing great heart to pull off the comeback. She never lost hope and played some impressive stuff to end the match, with a solid match tiebreak helping her move to 2-5 in slam semi finals. “This kind of thinking helped me to stay in the game and give me some hope that I’ll be able to turn around this match, that the match is not over until the last point, and that I just have to keep fighting, keep trying to find my rhythm, my game, just find myself. Magically I finally found the game, and I was able to turn around this match and to get this win.”
The new and improved Gauff definitely deserves her spot in the final, having gone 17-1 since a shock R1 loss at Wimbledon. However, the issues in her game still can be attacked by Sabalenka. Her forehand hasn’t been exposed much this tournament but the Belarussian is bound to attack it to see if it holds up under pressure. Gauff is a great defensive player and will hope to frustrate the second seed though, looking to see how she deals with the pressure against a vocal home crowd. It does feel though that much of the hard work has been done for Sabalenka, who shouldn’t shy away from the occasion now and should take this one as long as she avoids a disastrous serving performance.
Prediction – Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets