Coco Gauff fought her way through a three-hour epic for the second day in a row at the Toronto Open on Thursday, beating sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 4-6 7-6(4) in the longest match of her career to set up a quarter-final clash with Simona Halep.
The 18-year-old American looked set to stroll to victory when she opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set after taking the first, but Sabalenka mounted a spirited comeback to take the match all the way to a deciding tie-break.
Gauff, who is the 10th seed in Toronto, spent 3 hours 11 minutes on court in the longest WTA-level main draw match of her career, just a day after requiring almost three hours to beat Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
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She also became the youngest player to reach back-to-back Canadian Open quarter-finals since Jennifer Capriati in 1990 and 1991.
The French Open finalist will now compete in her sixth quarter-final of the season on Friday against Halep, who defeated Jil Teichmann 6-2 7-5 to continue her impressive form.
Sabalenka asked serious questions of Gauff early in the opening set, as the American had to save four break points at 2-1 down, her powerful serving helping her out of trouble to keep the score level.
The teenager initially couldn’t make her chances count when they came either, as Sabalenka snuffed out four break point opportunities in the opening four games.
Gauff eventually made the breakthrough at the perfect moment, pouncing at the fifth break point attempt to go 6-5 up, but serving out didn’t prove to be a simple task as Sabalenka went 40-15 up in the following game.
The No. 10 seed showed her class by winning the next four points in a row, including an explosive backhand winner down the line and a well-executed drop shot, to take the opening set.
Things got even worse for the Belarusian when she was broken in her first two service games of the second set, as Gauff took a 3-0 lead and firm control of the match.
But the sixth seed showed buckets of tenacity to fight back, breaking Gauff in the following game before later saving three break points on her serve to stay in it.
Sabalenka levelled things up at 4-4 when Gauff shanked a return long on break point, before breaking again and completing her remarkable turnaround when a double fault on set point from the American took the match to a decider.
The roles were reversed at the start of the third set as Sabalenka raced into a 3-0 lead, only for Gauff to come back to life and fight her way back into contention at 3-3.
The remainder of a hard-fought set stayed on serve to set until the tie-break, and even then the two players couldn’t be separated at the change of ends after taking three points each.
However, powerful hitting and explosive serving from Gauff helped her take four of the next five points to conclude a thrilling contest.
Halep’s victory was more routine, as the No.15 seed needed an hour and a half to record a straight-sets win over Teichmann.
Victory sent the Romanian into her 39th WTA 1000 quarter-final, a record that only Agnieszka Radwanska (42) can better.
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