By Howard Fendrich
AP Tennis Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — A little more than a month ago, Coco Gauff left Wimbledon after a first-round loss that left her dispirited and unsure of what she needed to do. That seems kind of far away after she won the trophy at the very next tournament she entered.
Surging at the end of each set, Gauff defeated Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in the DC Open women’s final on Aug. 6 for the fourth WTA Tour singles title of her career.
Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida, was helped in Washington by two recent additions to her team: full-time coach Pere Riba — he’ll be with her at least through the U.S. Open, which starts on Aug. 28 — and temporary consultant Brad Gilbert.
“It’s our first tournament as a full team. I’m glad that we were able to make this result. Thank you for sticking with me,” Gauff said during the trophy ceremony, getting a thumbs-up from Gilbert. “I know those who were with me at Wimbledon, it was really tough. … I’m glad I was able to bounce back.”
Did she ever.
Gauff did not drop a set all week in the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open. This was her second trophy of the season, alongside one in Auckland, New Zealand, in January.
She is ranked No. 7 and was seeded No. 3 in Washington, where she teamed with Caty McNally to win the doubles title in 2019.
The match briefly was interrupted in each set when a spectator was attended to in the stands on an afternoon with the temperature at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) and the humidity at 55 percent.
Gauff, the runner-up at the 2022 French Open, hit seven aces and improved to 4-1 in tour finals.
She is the first teenager to win four WTA tournaments since April 2009, when Caroline Wozniacki got the fourth of the seven trophies she collected as a teenager.
“You deserve everything you have achieved,” Sakkari told Gauff. “You’re still a girl, so you have a lot of time … and a lot of success to come, even though I know you’ve already achieved so many great things.”
Sakkari, a 28-year-old from Greece who is ranked No. 9 and was seeded No. 4, is now 1-7 in finals.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said, wiping away tears. “It’s pretty disappointing.”
This was the first year of Washington’s tournament as a combined ATP-WTA 500 event. Despite that equal billing, the prize money is still not the same — and isn’t expected to be until 2027. Gauff earned $120,150, while the men’s champion was going to receive a check for $353,445.
Gauff got a much louder greeting than Sakkari during player introductions, both when they walked into the stadium and while they were warming up. And Gauff grabbed a 3-0 lead after just 10 minutes with the help of a trio of aces at up to 114 mph (184 kph).
Then she accumulated two break points, each giving her the chance to go up 4-0. But Sakkari saved both of those to get to deuce on her serve. That’s when there was a three-minute delay because a man in the top row of the stands needed attention.
When play resumed, it was Sakkari who immediately was the better player, while Gauff’s level momentarily dipped. Sakkari held for 3-1, then broke for 3-2 when Gauff double-faulted twice in a game.
Suddenly, it was a match again. Or so it seemed. But just as suddenly, Gauff regained the upper hand, using terrific, speedy defense to extend points until Sakkari would miss or using her increasingly aggressive willingness to apply quick-strike tennis to seize points.
Gauff closed that opening set with a huge forehand return off a 75 mph (120 kph) second serve, rushing Sakkari into a missed response.
Sakkari briefly regrouped and broke immediately to open the second set when Gauff dumped a drop shot into the net. Gauff put her hands on her head, walked to the sideline and hit her equipment bag with her racket. Soon, Sakkari led 2-0.
But Sakkari double-faulted to get broken to 3-all, and her groundstroke errors kept coming, too, often followed by a look toward her coach, Tom Hill, in the stands.
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