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Gauff Edges Sabalenka, Will Face Halep For Spot in Toronto Semifinals

Coco Gauff of the United States celebrates a point against Aryna Sabalenka of Russia during the National Bank Open, part of the Hologic WTA Tour, at Sobeys Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Facing a heavy hitter and miniscule margins, Coco Gauff suffered a seven game-free fall—then showed strong survival skills to land on her feet..

Gauff came back from a break down in the final set, fending off Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(4) in a tense three hour, 11-minute drama to squeeze into the Toronto quarterfinals.

It’s Gauff’s second trip to the National Bank Open quarterfinals in as many appearances.

Gauff’s grit, quick court coverage and willingness to take her strikes at crunch time were all keys as she reached her fourth quarterfinal in her last five tournaments, improving to 30-14 on the season.

For the second straight day, Gauff squandered a lead against an explosive power player and battled back to win a third-set tiebreaker.

Yesterday, Gauff failed to convert four match points in the second set before regrouping to out-duel Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(3) in a two hour, 49-minute thriller.

Today, the 18-year-old American shrugged off the 0-2 third-set deficit and lifted her aggression in the decisive tiebreaker, raising her 2022 tiebreak record to 8-3. 

This was a nervy, sweaty and addictive match that saw the pair produce several superb running strikes and some jittery second serves under stress. They combined for 33 double faults—18 by Sabalenka and 15 from Gauff.

While it wasn’t always pretty, Gauff’s  energy, competitiveness and fast feet carried her through after she blew a one-set, 3-0 lead. Sabalenka surged through seven straight games turning that second-set deficit around and going up 2-0 in the final set.

Resetting, Gauff zapped a serve winner down the middle for match point and wrapped up a grueling win on a Sabalenka return error.

The 10th-seeded Gauff has now beaten the reigning Wimbledon champion, the 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist Sabalenka and lives to fight another day against 2019 Wimbledon winner Simona Halep fora semifinal spot.

Former world No. 1 Halep defeated Swiss Jil Teichmann 6-2, 7-5. Halep won 32 of 39 first-serve points and saved two of three break points in a 90-minute win.

Two-time tournament champion Halep will try to sustain her dominance of Gauff. The 15th-seeded Romanian has swept all six sets she’s played vs. Gauff, including straight-sets wins in Indian Wells and Miami last spring.