Ons Jabeur admitted she made “a lot of mistakes” after starting her WTA Finals campaign with a thumping 6-1, 6-0 defeat against US Open champion Coco Gauff in Cancun.
The 19-year-old American raced through the first set to win 6-0 in just 23 minutes and then shrugged off a rain delay of just over an hour to take the second set 6-1 for a convincing win – her first ever in the season-ending championship.
Gauff, who lost all six of her singles and doubles matches in her debut tournament last year in Fort Worth, breezed past three-time major runner-up Jabeur, will now take face Polish world No 2 Iga Swiatek.
“She played really well,” Jabeur said after the match. “She played a correct match, didn't make a lot of mistakes. On my part, I did make a lot of mistakes. Not my best day on the court, but, yeah, that’s tennis sometimes.”
Gauff has now won 50 matches this season, with eight coming against top 10 opponents, and she is the first teenager to reach a half century or more victories in a single season since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009.
“I'm just happy to finally get a win here in this event,” she said. “After the rain delay, I was just focused on keeping my foot on the gas pedal.”
Gauff is playing her first tournament since splitting with coach Pere Riba after the China Open and is in Mexico with Brad Gilbert, who was one of her two coaches during the run of 12 consecutive victories – and 18 in 19 matches – that culminated with her first Grand Slam title in New York in September.
“Unfortunately, it wasn't my decision,” Gauff said. “But we had to end the partnership. If it was up to me, I would have loved to have him here. But you know, things happen. Life happens. So no bad terms on our end.
“Sometimes people think it's bigger than what it is. But some things just didn't work out and that's all. I still think that he was a great guy. And obviously, he did amazing things for me personally and also for my game. So I'm sure he's going to be successful in his next step.”
Earlier Monday, Swiatek climbed out of a 5-2 hole early against Marketa Vondrousova and dominated the second set. Both women then added their voices to the chorus of complaints about the playing conditions.
Cancun was only confirmed as the host city of the prestigious championship on September 7 after Saudi Arabia had reportedly been lined up to stage the event.
“Obviously it’s not a positive thing for any of us,” Swiatek said after defeating the Czech 7-6, 6-0. “For sure, it’s not comfortable – and the fact that we also didn’t have time to practise on this court,” Swiatek said.
Vondrousova was a little more blunt, saying on Instagram: “My first WTA Finals is not at all what I imagined. We work hard all year to get to the Finals and in the end it's just a disappointment.
“Stadium is not at all ready for the matches and to me it feels like the people from WTA are absolutely not interested in how we – who are supposed to play on that court – feel.”
Tuesday sees world No 1 Aryna Sabalenka take on Jessica Pegula while Elena Rybakina faces Maria Sakkari.