Gauff wishes to 'celebrate' turning 17 with Dubai title

Cori Gauff hits a backhand return during her match on Tuesday. (Supplied photo)
Cori Gauff hits a backhand return during her match on Tuesday. (Supplied photo)

Dubai - Gauff will turn 17 on Saturday, the day of the final in Dubai and the teenager said it would be a great way to usher in her birthday

By James Jose

Published: Tue 9 Mar 2021, 8:31 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Mar 2021, 8:44 PM

American Cori Gauff is wishing she can reach the final of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and is hoping she can ‘celebrate’ her birthday by winning the title.

Making her Dubai debut, Gauff, better known as ‘Coco,’ will turn 17 on Saturday, the day of the final and the teenager said it would be a great way to usher in her birthday.

“Definitely a big motivation,” Gauff said, when asked whether her birthday would be enough motivation to win the tournament.

“I would much rather celebrate it that way, especially now, in today’s world, we cannot really celebrate anything and that probably the best celebration one can get. So, that’s the goal and hopefully that will be my birthday wish. I don’t know if there is a wizard or anything, I know there’s a tooth fairy and Santa Claus, but if there is one, I wish to be in the final,” she giggled.

And Gauff is well on that road after stunning 12th seeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 in the second round on Court 2 of the Aviation Club Tennis Centre, on Tuesday.

Gauff, at No.40, is the youngest player to be ranked in the top 100 on the WTA Tour, and her bigger goal is to scale the rankings and get seeded at a Grand Slam.

“My goal now is to climb up in the rankings and hopefully get seeded at the next Grand Slam. Still got a long way to go but hopefully I can get there,” said Gauff, whose best showing at a Grand Slam was reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open last year.

She also made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019 and the third round of the US Open, the same year.

Gauff was involved in her seventh straight three-setter with her match against Vondrousova lasting almost two hours. Gauff said that she found her rhythm in the second and third sets after an error-strewn opening.

“Honestly, I’m just staying in there, fighting every point. I would like to close it in two sets but today, she started off strong and I was making a little bit of errors. But I found my rhythm towards the second and third sets,” she explained.

Asked whether playing three sets for a while now had been a concern, she replied in the negative.

“No, it doesn’t really bother me. Obviously, I would like to close it in two, but a win is a win and if it takes three sets, I’m willing to play three sets,” said Gauff.

Gauff also turned the clock back to last year when the pandemic hit the tennis schedule, and she also revealed how she coped with it.

“I was in California this time last year and it was a bit of a shock (when the Indian Wells tournament was cancelled). And I never would have thought it would take five months for us to get back on Tour and I never would have thought this pandemic would still be going on a year later. We are all trying our best and hopefully, next year, around this time, we won’t be having conversations on zoom,” she said.

“It was nice actually,” Gauff said about the break.

“I liked it at first just to have time home and then I remember the last, maybe month or so, I was anxious to play. Practicing and staying motivated was a little bit tough because you set goals for yourself and that’s how you stay motivated, at least for me, but there were no goals to look forward to. So, it was hard to stay motivated,” she added.

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