Gauff wins rain-soaked Auckland WTA final

Six hours after warming up for her final, Coco Gauff has triumphed at Auckland's Australian Open lead-up tournament, prevailing in a rain-soaked decider.

Gauff beat Spain's Rebeka Masarova 6-1 6-1 for her third career title, claiming the ASB Classic over a challenging week.

Persistent rain played havoc with the tournament schedule, forcing two of Gauff's previous matches inside without fans, and dragging out Sunday's decider.

After a beautiful day, the heavens opened 10 minutes before the match's scheduled start at 5pm NZDT, kicking out the start time to 6:45pm.

World No.7 Gauff led 5-1 and held a set point before showers intervened 35 minutes later.

Finally back on court at 9:15pm, Gauff needed five set points to claim the opening set and was never seriously challenged in the second, winning just before 10pm.

"It's been great, honestly a great week for me despite the rain," Gauff said.

"I can't ask for a better start for my season.

"A first title on hard (courts) since I was 15 so I'm happy to finally do well on the surface that I love."

While frustrating for all in attendance, the rainy final was a fitting end to the wettest Auckland tournament in memory.

Several sessions were washed out, with play staged inside on training courts.

The use of the inside courts was not without controversy.

Emma Raducanu, a second-round loser, blamed the surface for an ankle injury that has put her Australian Open participation in doubt, while Venus Williams withdrew from the year's first major citing injury suffered in her loss.

Williams began her second round match outside and was subject to lengthy delays before resuming inside, where she lost 7-5 in the third.

Gauff was able to rise above the fray, even saying the inside courts helped her Australian Open preparation due to their higher speed.

She didn't drop a set en route to the final and was always in control against Masarova.

The popular American dug into her toolkit, playing with varied speed, height and dip, staving off a break point with a trademark booming backhand.

Gauff, the top seed, played with a composure on the big points which Masarova lacked.

After dropping her service for the second time, Masarova - who won through from qualifying to reach her first WTA final - slumped to the ground and slapped her racquet on the court, not with venom but disappointment.

At 2-1 in the second set, Masarova clung on for a tough service hold which drew a squeal: a rare on-court outburst from Gauff.

Her next display of emotion came after championship point, as she fist pumped towards her box on winning the trophy.

The title is Gauff's first since May 2021, and first on hardcourts since the Linz Open in 2019, confirming her status as a challenger at the Australian Open.