2022 hasn’t started well for Coco Gauff, not by her standard at least. Her ousting in the first Round of the Aussie Open was unexpected having pushed eventual winner Ash Barty to three sets in Adelaide a few weeks earlier. A potential route for redemption is the Dubai Tennis Championships which got under way yesterday. She faces fellow American and ironically her doubles partner in the same tournament Jessica Pegula. Jessica had a memorable time down under making the quarterfinals, losing to eventual winner Barty which is no shame at all. Now, although the match was pretty close, it was not because both were playing great. In fact Coco was bad on first serve such that she had 10 Double faults in two sets. Didn’t take long for Coco to be in a hole at 3-0. She fought back. Check out 30-40. The serve from Jessica was tricky to the receiver in that it is straight at the body, that makes it hard to adjust the body to get purchase on the return. Coco did superb. I always feel Coco has a good baseline game in her that she is yet to discover. A chance for her to level scored in set one was snuffed out at 3-2(15-40) albeit temporarily but she showed she can move well on the baseline. Pegula is the highest ranked American on the WTA Tour and she showed why at 3-3(30-15), down the line forehand winner wasn’t that powerful but it had topspin enough to bounce low giving Coco no chance. The break of serve in that game was enough for Pegula who sealed the set 6-4. Needless to say Coco is at her best serving and charging the net. 5-3(15-15).
Change of set, nothing changes in terms of direction of first break of serve in it. I don’t know if it is possible to hit a near perfect serve but watch first game of the second set Coco down 15-40 on her racquet. Bounces high and wide giving Jessica no chance. Pity such was few and far between in the match from the young American. As in set one, Gauff fought back to level but could not sustain the momentum. Here is my point of the match, 2-2(30-0 Coco). It is easy to see why Coco has adopted well to the clay court game watching this. The defensive play was top notch from her, the defensive forehand kind of had Jessica panicking as to how to deal with it. In the end Pegula botched the play by overthinking it and playing a weak forehand cross court when really she had control of the point. Turning point for the set 3-3 again as with set one. Fierce, passing shots from Pegula deflating Coco just when things were starting to look up for her. You are always vulnerable to them if you hastily mistime coming to the net. That was the break to win the match for Pegula. Coco didn’t just hand it to her though. SOLID HOLD AT 5-3 followed by a battling performance at 5-4 on the Jessica racquet showed she was no push over. Watch the baseline rally at first match point 30-40.