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Ricky’s pick for the U.S. Open final between Sabalenka and Gauff

Coco Gauff is one win away from winning her first Grand Slam title and doing so in front of the home American crowd at the U.S. Open.

However, one of the biggest tests awaits her on Saturday afternoon. Standing in Gauff’s way of the winner’s trophy is soon-to-be world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka (the Belarusian will assume the top ranking next Monday regardless of Saturday’s result).

Sabalenka and Gauff will be facing each other for the sixth time in their careers. Their most recent encounter was dominated by Sabalenka 6-4, 6-0 earlier this year at the Premier 1000 event in Indian Wells, but Gauff still leads the H2H 3-2 and all of their other meetings have been competitive. Two even resulted in final-set tiebreakers.

Speaking of decisive tiebreakers, Sabalenka needed one in the semifinals against Madison Keys on Thursday. Keys once led 6-0, 5-3 but could not close it out and Sabalenka battled back from behind to prevail 0-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(10-5).

Gauff booked her spot in the final by beating Karolina Muchova 6-4, 7-5 in a match that was delayed by 50 minutes due to environmental protestors. It was tough one, which is nothing new for the 19-year-old. She has been to three sets three times at this U.S. Open — but has gotten through them every time to improve to 17-1 since Wimbledon.

Although Gauff still has time on her side as a teenager, there is more pressure on her as she seeks her first major title. Sabalenka, on the other hand, is 1-for-1 in slam finals (2023 Australian Open). The No. 2 seed has the experience edge and in favorable conditions for her game her offense may be able to defeat Gauff’s defense.

Pick: Sabalenka in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.