"So I really told myself, literally up until, like, 10 minutes before the match, I was just reading comments of people saying I wasn't going to win today. That just put the fire in me."
Reset to plot the path to glory
Australian Open champion Sabalenka, topping the rankings for the first time on Monday, took control of a turbulent opener.
The 25-year-old's slingshot groundstrokes, as well as a string of uncharacteristic errors, kept Coco guessing, on the fringes of the action as it was all on Sabalenka's racket.
The bigger the point, the bigger the risk from Sabalenka and the No.2 seed tested Gauff's astonishing retrieval skills to the limit, keeping her sprinting back and forth, overpowering for a set lead.
"It doesn't get more dramatic than that to be honest. I used the bathroom because I was nervous. I was washing my hands, I put some water on my face, and I was, like, 'Okay, I've got to just reset and redo it,'" revealed the home charge.
"She was just playing great tennis, and I knew today was going to be one of those problem-solving tough matches."