The victory extended the third-ranked American’s winning streak to 15 matches, the longest on the WTA Tour this season and a span that includes the Cincinnati title and her US Open victory last month.
“I’m really happy with how I’ve been able to manage,” Gauff said. “I had trouble finding the way I wanted to play in these conditions. I felt like the balls were flying in the first match and playing passive in the second. I’m really happy with how I’ve been able to troubleshoot and problem-solve. Today I played a good match overall.”
“I think she’s probably one of the most athletic players on tour, so I think it’s going to be tough,” Gauff said of Sakkari.
Kudermetova led 5-4, 40-0 at the end of the first set. The 26-year-old Russian player had four set points in that game but was unable to convert.
Sabalenka hit 13 aces to take the first set, but the 36th-ranked Italian player came back from 3-1 down to serve for the second set twice at 5-4 and 6-5.
Sabalenka has a 4-1 record against the Kazakh player, most notably defeating her in the Australian Open final, before losing their latest meeting in the Indian Wells title clash.
“It’s always great battles against Elena. I think I just have to focus on myself, play aggressive and just play my game,” Sabalenka said. “I know that I’ll have some chances to win this match. In the last match I lost, I got nervous a little bit and I rushed a little bit more. The key against Elena is just to stay calm, stay aggressive, and not overrush things.”
The top 32 seeded players, including Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev, received a first-round bye and will play in the second round Saturday.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.