The first career meeting between Serena Williams and Coco Gauff was one round away, but it’ll have to wait for another day. Serena held up her end of the bargain Thursday, battling past Christina McHale to reach the Auckland quarterfinals, but Gauff lost to Laura Siegemund in her second-round match.
After twice falling behind a break early on—she trailed 2-0 and, later in the set, 5-3—Gauff lifted her game when it mattered most, battling back every time and eventually capturing the opening set, 7-5.
But Siegemund, a former Top 30 player, was just too solid from there, cruising through the second set, 6-2, hitting 10 winners to just seven unforced errors in that middle set—and eventually grabbing two more breaks in the third set en route to a 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 victory after two hours and 14 minutes.
Siegemund finished the match with an almost even differential of winners to unforced errors, 27 to 30, but Gauff’s game went awry—she finished with 16 winners to 35 unforced errors.
“In the first set I had my chances and let it go, but in the important moments she’s just so tough to play,” Siegemund said in her on-court interview after the match. “I just tried to keep my level, and she started to miss a little bit more, and I think I got better and better as the match went on.”
The 31-year-old Siegemund had only positive things to say about 15-year-old Gauff.
“I just think she’s an amazing player. She’s beaten a lot of good players,” the German said. “I really had to stay composed, and I’m really happy how I performed today, especially in the third set.”
Gauff’s next tournament will be the Australian Open, but she’s still in the doubles draw in Auckland with fellow American Caty McNally. McNally also lost to Siegemund this week, in the first round.
Serena and McHale took center court shortly afterwards, and for the third time in four career meetings, Serena was pushed to three sets by her countrywoman, rallying from a set down to prevail after exactly two hours on court, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“It was a good match for me, because I really need to play matches like that to get to my goals,” Serena said afterwards. “Tournament time is super important and match time is good. It’s fun to be out here after losing that first set, and I’m glad I’m still in the event.”
After getting off to a slow start, falling behind 4-1, Serena stayed level with McHale the rest of the first set and then cut down on her unforced errors from the beginning of the second set.
“I was making a lot of errors, and I stopped making so many and tried to be a little more aggressive,” Serena said. “I just think today I got mad, and honestly, I wanted to win more than one match here in New Zealand.”
Serena and Siegemund will now play each other in the quarterfinals on Friday. The two have met just once before, with Serena winning handily in the second round of Indian Wells in 2016, 6-2, 6-1.