Confident Cori Gauff makes perfect start of the season in Auckland



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Confident Cori Gauff makes perfect start of the season in Auckland

On the latest WTA ranking list, there are 11 players younger than 16. Ten of those future tennis stars are still ranked outside the top-600, hoping to improve that in 2020 and make another step towards the Grand Slam qualifying draws and the place in the top-300.

On the other hand, Cori Gauff had already passed all that, cracking the top-70 after a stellar 2019 season and standing as the one to watch in the year ahead of us as well. The 15-year-old that works in Florida has been the one to talk about ever since the US Open 2017 when she reached the junior final at the age of 13, becoming junior no.

1 and Roland Garros champion at the age of 14 next year, scoring her first professional wins as well. Targeting the place in the top-100 at the end of 2019, Cori left junior tennis behind her after conquering the Orange Bowl in December 2018, focusing on the professional tournaments and making remarkable progress of some 600 spots on the WTA list.

The youngster advanced into the first professional final last February, still before turning 15, scoring the first WTA win on the big scene in Miami and receiving a wild card for the qualifying draw at Wimbledon. Cori embraced the opportunity with both hands, passing three obstacles to find herself in the main draw as the youngest qualifier ever at the All England Club, stunning multiple champion Venus Williams in the first round and adding two more wins to her tally to become the youngest player in the fourth round at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati!

Moving closer to her goal, Gauff won two encounters at the US Open and claimed the first WTA title in Luxembourg as the last-minute lucky loser, becoming the youngest WTA champion since 2004 and cracking the top-70 ahead of 2020 when she can play more tournaments than in the previous year, at least after turning 16 in March.

Until then, Cori will compete in Auckland, Australian Open and Indian Wells, hoping for a strong run and the place in the top-50 as soon as possible. The super talented youngster made a perfect start of the season at the ASB Classic, toppling Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour.

The American saved all three break points and earned four breaks from as many chances, controlling the pace in the rallies and looking like a player on the mission all the time. Cori broke in the second game of the match and kept the lead until 5-3 when she held at 30 to grab the opener, delivering three breaks in set number two for a commanding victory and the place in the second round.

"2019 was a crazy year for me and I couldn't have imagined it at all; I'm excited to make more memories like that," Gauff said. "It is crazy that people look up to me; it all started in 2019 and came overnight.

I'm dealing with hype and pressure much better now; coming up to the US Open, I was nervous because people were talking about it even before Wimbledon had finished. Afterward, I realized that I couldn't play for the hype but myself; I think it shows in my results that I've been not listening to it too much and have been focussing on my process.

Everyone loved Auckland; all of the players I talked to about it loved it here; it was an easy tournament to pick. Plus, the most important thing for me was to play an event where I could stay home for Christmas. Since they moved the schedule back, Auckland was perfect for it and I also wanted to finish duties a week before Australia, to have enough time to work on things if I need to. Auckland was an easy decision."