Auckland champ Gauff sets sights on AO

Emboldened by her Auckland success, Coco Gauff says she can contend at Melbourne Park for a first major title at the Australian Open.

Gauff was an emphatic champion at the ASB Classic, winning five matches without dropping a set, culminating in a 6-1 6-1 win in the rain-delayed final over Rebeka Masarova.

Her toughest match, a second round defeat of 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, stretched to just 83 minutes.

"It was a great tournament for me. I couldn't ask for anything better," she said.

"Each match I improved.

"I feel really good in my game right now. And I feel really prepared for Australia."

The win means Gauff, the world No.7, has three career titles.

This was her first trophy since Parma in May 2021, and her first on hard courts since the Linz Open in 2019 - or as Gauff noted in her acceptance speech, her "first since I was 15".

For the American, a win in Auckland brought the added significance of succeeding her inspiration and last winner here: Serena Williams.

"It's pretty cool to have your name next to your idol," she said, beaming.

"It's going to be there forever and that's crazy really. I'm really happy about that ... I will take a picture of it and just savour it."

Amid her obvious delight, Gauff made mention of a tough 2022 she was happy to leave behind.

Perhaps surprisingly for someone on such an obviously upward trajectory, Gauff said she couldn't be content with her 2022 season after a late fade-out of five straight losses - including three at the WTA Finals.

"It's definitely hard to enjoy things when everyone's expecting so much from you," she said.

Her response was to arrive in New Zealand a full week before the tournament for a preparation with her family, "doing everything right in the mornings and afternoons and evenings that just felt like a vacation".

"I like to show them new places in the world," she said.

"I didn't feel stressed at all this week. And a lot of people mentioned that I didn't look stressed (and) I really wasn't."

On Monday she will pack for Melbourne, where she will be expected to improve on her first-round exit last year.

In 2023, she will enjoy the protection of the seventh seed - her highest ranking at a major - and with the benefit of her Auckland form, Gauff is setting her sights high.

"The goal is always to win," she said.

"I ended the last season roughly but I completely turned that around this week."