US Open: Coco Gauff tops Muchova to enter final

The match was delayed by a protest

coco-gauff-afp Coco Gauff celebrates her win against Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova in the US Open singles semifinal in New York City | AFP

Coco Gauff never wavered. Not when a big lead in the first set evaporated. Not when match point after match point went by the wayside. And not, most distracting of all, when her US Open semifinal against Karolina Muchova was interrupted for 50 minutes by environmental activists - one of whom glued his bare feet to the concrete floor in the stands.

It's been rather obvious for quite some time that Gauff is no ordinary teenager. Now she is one win away from becoming a Grand Slam champion.

Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida, reached her first final at Flushing Meadows by defeating Muchova 6-4, 7-5 on what was anything but an ordinary evening.

The toughest part for Gauff, who was the runner-up at the 2022 French Open, might have been closing out Thursday's victory: She needed six match points to get it done, raucously supported by a loud, partisan crowd that chair umpire Alison Hughes repeatedly implored to quiet down.

After failing to convert one match point while serving for the win at 5-3, then another four in what turned out to be the last game, Gauff got the last chance she would need when she smacked a forehand winner to cap a 40-stroke exchange that was the longest of the contest. Muchova then missed a backhand to end it.

Gauff pumped her fists, waved to the fans and put a finger to her ear, as if to say she wanted to hear even more support. She is the first American teenager to make it to the title match in New York since Serena Williams in 2001.

She was up by a set and 1-0 in the second when four protesters disrupted play from seats in an upper level of the arena. All four were arrested; three were escorted away relatively quickly, but it took more time to remove the person glued to the ground.

Both women spent time in the locker room during the delay. When action resumed, the play was pretty even for several games, until Gauff surged ahead and got her first match point. Muchova erased that with a volley winner and went on to break back.

They would play on for nearly a half-hour.

With Gauff leading 6-5 and Muchova serving, the one-point-away count kept climbing. Muchova resisted. Gauff was unable to pull through.

Once. Twice. Three times. Four. The roars from the seats kept coming. Finally, Gauff completed her 11th win a row and the 17th in her past 18 matches, a run that began after a first-round exit at Wimbledon in July. The streak includes the two biggest titles of Gauff's career and now she needs one more win to get an even more important championship.

The No. 6-seeded Gauff will meet No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus or No. 17 Madison Keys of the US on Saturday.

Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January and is guaranteed to move up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time next week, and Keys, the runner-up at the 2017 US Open, played in the second semifinal Thursday night.

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