Coco Gauff has shut down talks that she may have been put off by Arnya Sabalenka's grunting during the American's straight-sets Australian Open semi-final defeat. Many tennis players grunt during play but Sabalenka's noises have often been ridiculed for being at times excessive or unnecessary.
Gauff famously complained about Martina Trevisan's grunt during their Roland Garros match two years ago. However, she refused to blame the Belarusian's grunting for her 7-6 6-4 loss on Thursday night.
"I have played her a lot, so I can't sit here and say that the grunt is distracting. I don't even know, it's like the fifth time we have played," Gauff said post-match. "I don't notice. I feel like at least with her it's consistent, so it doesn't bother me.
"I've played a player in the past where the grunt wasn't consistent, where they would grunt longer on purpose on 30-all or deuce point. I don't think it's a tactic or anything. I think that's just how she plays tennis."
Gauff last met Sabalenka in the US Open final, where the American came from a set down to win 2-6 6-3 6-2. The World No 5. admits she wasn't on her game on Thursday night while the World No.2 was and that is what ultimately cost her.
"She served better (tonight). (In the) US Open ... she made less errors, but also I feel like I played a little bit more aggressive this time," Gauff said. "So, you know, US Open I felt like wasn't, like, a great match, like, for me. Yes, I won, (but) I think I played better tonight."
"I'm going to dwell on it tonight. But as Brad (Gilbert, coach) told me as soon as the match was over, the sun is going to rise tomorrow and you have a new chance to live a good day," Gauff said. "Tomorrow, I don't know. I'm going to try to go to the movies or something, be proud of myself. " Sabalenka will meet 21-year-old Qinwen Zheng in the Australian Open women's final on Saturday.
Sabalenka credits relaxed approach for Australian Open dominance
The defending Australian Open champion says in years gone by at this stage in a tournament she would have been an emotional wreck. But this year Sabalenka says she is in a better headspace than ever before as she prepares to take on China's Qinwen.
"I would say emotionally I'll be very ready to fight. Not going crazy, because when you play (your) first final, you get emotional and are rushing things sometimes," Sabalenka said.
"When you're third time in the finals, you're, like, 'OK, it's a final, it's OK'. It's just another match and you're able to separate yourself from that, just focus on your game."
While she admits she is fully aware of how big a favourite she will be going into Saturday's final, the World No.2 is trying not to pay attention to any added stresses such as if she is to win the title in 2023 she will be the first woman to win back-to-back Australian Open's since fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2013
"Yeah, I'm defending champion, but worst case I'm going to lose this tournament, and it's less points to defend next year. Then that's it," she said. "That's helping me to just stay focused. It's not like I'm ignoring the pressure. I'm just shifting my focus and it's working well so far. It's one more to go, and I'll do my best."
- with AAP
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