Saturday, August 15, 2020

Brady beats Gauff, 16, to reach first WTA final

Jennifer Brady, playing in the 2017 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger, will face
Jil Teichmann of Switzerland in the final of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky.
 Both players are unseeded. Photo by Rob Vomund
This week's Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., featured plenty of star power.

Four Grand Slam singles champions — Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens — inhabited the top quarter of the draw, and 16-year-old U.S. phenom Coco Gauff occupied the bottom quarter.

Meeting in Sunday's final (8 a.m. PDT, Tennis Channel), however, will be two rising unseeded players.

Jennifer Brady, a 25-year-old former UCLA star from Boca Raton, Fla., overpowered Gauff 6-2, 6-4 to reach her first WTA final. 

Gauff had ousted second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, the runner-up in San Jose, Calif., last August, in the second round and eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur, an Australian Open quarterfinalist in January, in the quarters.

Jil Teichmann, a 23-year-old left-hander from Switzerland, dismissed Shelby Rogers, a 27-year-old wild card from Charleston, S.C., 6-3, 6-2. Rogers was coming off a three-set victory over top-seeded Serena Williams, who has a residence in Silicon Valley, on Friday.

Teichmann, who was born in Barcelona and lived there until she was 14, is 2-0 in WTA finals, winning on clay in Prague and Palermo last year, and 1-1 against Brady.

Neither finalist has lost a set in four matches in the first WTA tournament in North America in almost one year. Brady has dropped 17 games and Teichmann 22. 

"I don't have an answer for that, why I don't lose any sets," Teichmann, who also reached the doubles final, said in an on-court interview. "I just feel very good. I'm playing very consistent, and I feel great on court. I guess that's the main reason."

Brady played at UCLA for two years (2014-15), helping the Bruins win the NCAA title as a freshman. She won the singles and doubles titles in the 2014 Redding (Calif.) Challenger and reached the fourth round of the 2017 Australian Open and U.S. Open.

Brady won 85 percent of the points (22 of 26) on her first serve in her first career match against Gauff and faced only one break point, which she saved. Brady had eight aces and two double faults. 

Both Brady, a semifinalist in Dubai as a qualifier in February, and Gauff, who won the title in Linz, Austria, last October as a lucky loser, will ascend to career-high rankings on Monday. Brady is guaranteed to rise six places to No. 43, and Gauff will improve five notches to No. 48.

In another first-time matchup, Teichmann converted only 46% of her first serves (to Rogers' 74%) but won 80 percent of those points (20 of 25). She will jump at least nine places in the rankings to tie her career high of No. 54.

Rogers made numerous unforced errors in the match but will return to the top 100 for the first time since April 2018, vaulting 21 places to No. 95. 

Rogers reached the quarterfinals of the 2016 French Open and climbed to a career-high No. 48 the following January. However, she hurt her left knee in a first-round loss at Indian Wells in March 2018, had surgery and sat out for one year.

In the doubles semifinals, unseeded Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Teichmann edged top-seeded Alexa Guarachi, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., who plays for Chile, and Desirae Krawczyk, a left-hander born in Palm Desert, Calif., 6-2, 3-6 [10-4].

Bouzkova and Teichmann will play fourth-seeded Hayley Carter, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Luisa Stefani of Brazil after the singles final. Carter and Stefani starred at North Carolina and Pepperdine, respectively. 

Carter won the doubles title in the 2018 Stockton, Calif., Challenger with Ena Shibahara, a native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area who plays for Japan.

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