Gauff wins Auckland WTA opener in style

Daniel Gilhooly
Teenage sensation Coco Gauff is off to a flying start in the WTA's Auckland Classic

She's 15 but Coco Gauff handled Auckland's blustery wind like a seasoned pro in an ominous start to a year that already looks like it will build on her 2019 heroics.

Gauff was too strong for Slovakian opponent Viktoria Kuzmova on the opening day of Auckland's ASB Classic on Monday, unleashing a highly-impressive 6-3 6-1 win in an hour.

Gauff lived up to her blossoming reputation that took flight at Wimbledon six months ago, unleashing a range of winners, including some fine touches around the net where her mobility was impressive.

Ranked lower than her opponent - at 68th compared to 61st - Gauff rarely looked rattled despite the uncomfortable conditions.

She said it was the windiest match of her short career.

"It's hard to get used to but actually in Florida we get pretty windy days like this," she said.

"During the off-season, a whole week was like this. I guess I was prepped for it.

"You never get used to something like this but I think I was more prepared than my opponent, just living in tropical conditions and living in windy weather.

"It was OK, I had fun still."

The performance sparked memories of her sensational run to the fourth round at Wimbledon followed by victory at the Linz Open in October, when she became the youngest WTA tournament winner in 15 years.

She said she had returned from a break in a positive frame of mind, still buzzing about the benefits of a tough training session with former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.

"I felt really confident. I feel like I'm moving well, doing everything well and I definitely had a good off-season. I think that's showing in my matches."

The former world No.1 junior is in the same quarter of the draw as her idol, Serena Williams.

US legend Williams was handed a late change of opponent for her opening match on Tuesday after Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew because of a viral illness. Williams will instead face Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi.

Kuznetsova continued a trend of former grand slam winners pulling out.

Jelena Ostapenko withdrew on Sunday for "personal reasons" while reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu dropped out days earlier with a knee complaint, promoting Williams to top seed status.

There was mixed news for two other seeds on the tournament's opening day.

Six-seeded Swede Rebecca Peterson was beaten 7-6 7-6 by Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek while eighth-seed Caroline Garcia of France fought back to beat American Taylor Townsend 5-7 6-3 7-5.