At 15 years and 213 days, Gauff is the youngest woman to reach a WTA final in almost exactly 15 years, since Nicole Vaidisova won Tashkent on October 17, 2004 at age 15 years and 177 days.
“It’s definitely an unreal tournament—my first final, a lot of firsts for me here,” Gauff said. “I guess Linz is my special place. It’s given me a lot of luck and a lot of happiness. I hope I can keep this going."
Having scored the first Top 10 win of her career on Friday against No. 8 Kiki Bertens, Gauff was in some early trouble against former No. 9 Petkovic, dropping serve in the second game to fall behind early, 2-0. But she got the break back right away in the next game, and after the two players traded holds for the next five games, Gauff snuck out another break for 5-4 and served the set out at love.
After fighting off four break points in her first two service games of the second set, Gauff broke again for a 3-2 lead and hung onto the break the rest of the way, even dodging a comeback bid at the end. She dug out of a 15-40 hole, as well as a third break point at ad-out, serving for the match at 5-4.
Having fallen in qualifying, Gauff got into the main draw as a lucky loser. Now, she's into her first tour final.
“When I lost in the qualifying, I thought I was done. I was already looking forward to the doubles here and Luxembourg next week. This is actually the first time I’ve gotten into something as a lucky loser, and now I’m in the final, so I guess every little thing counts, and you never know what it can lead to."
“Last year around this time I was playing juniors. It’s crazy how much difference a year can make," said Gauff.
Awaiting Gauff in the final will be 2017 French Open champion and former No. 5 Jelena Ostapenko, who rallied from 6-1, 3-1 down and saved three match points—one down 6-5 in the second set and two more down 5-4 in the third—to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova in the other semifinal, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5.
If Gauff goes on to win the title, she would become the youngest American woman to win a WTA title in more than 28 years, since Jennifer Capriati won Toronto in 1991 at age 15 years and 135 days.
Gauff is projected to rise from No. 110 to roughly No. 80 by reaching the final, and to approximately No. 71 if she wins the title. She was already guaranteed to make her Top 100 debut by reaching her first WTA quarterfinal this week. She’ll be the youngest woman to break into the Top 100 since Sesil Karatantcheva, a younger 15, achieved the feat on January 31, 2005, and she’ll be the youngest American woman to achieve the feat since a 14-year-old Capriati did it on April 9, 1990.