When teen Coco Gauff caught the worlds attention at age 15 when at age 15 she beat Venus Williams on her round to the fourth round at Wimbledon, every speculated she was on her way to tennis greatness. Just three years late, Gauff is proving the speculators right this week at the French Open where she has reached the finals in both the singles and women’s doubles.
This is her first grand slam singles finals and her second grand slams double finals.
When Gauff arrived in Paris a little more than two weeks ago, she celebrated her recent high school graduation by posing for cap-and-gown photos near the Eiffel Tower while holding her diploma. Now she’s the youngest player to reach a major title match since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17 in 2004.
However, Gauff now has a chance to leave Roland Garros with two trophies.
This morning, the 18-year-old Gauff and Jessica Pegula advanced to the French Open women’s doubles final after winning the All-American (three of them Black Americans) semi-finals match by beating Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 7-6 (4) in an all-American semifinal Friday.
Gauff meets top-ranked Iga Swiatek on Saturday for the singles championship.
Gauff, who is from Florida, and Pegula, a 26-year-old from New York who lost to Swiatek in the singles quarterfinals, are appearing in their first Grand Slam tournament as a team.
Gauff and Caty McNally were the runners-up in women’s doubles at last year’s U.S. Open.
Barbora Krejcikova won the singles and doubles titles at the 2021 French Open, the first time a woman claimed both in the same year at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce in 2000.
Gauff has won all 12 sets she’s played, although she did not need to navigate the most arduous path to get this. Because of all manner of surprising results and early exits by top players from the bracket, she has faced only one seeded foe, No. 31 Elise Mertens.
Big serves that reached 115 mph against Trevisan, a terrific backhand and a still-improving forehand are the keys to the 18th-seeded Gauff’s game.
Trevisan also praised Gauff’s defense, likening facing her to hitting against a wall — every ball comes back.
Now, in Swiatek, comes someone who will present a much tougher test. The only Polish player to win a major singles title hasn’t lost since February, stringing together five tournaments in a row; only Venus Williams, who won 35 consecutive matches in 2000, has a longer unbeaten stretch this century.
Don’t feel sorry for Gauff if she loses. The winner of the French Open singles title takes home approximately $2 million dollars with the loser taking home a mere $1 million in earnings.
Gauff is very much a typical 18-year-old, striding into Court Philippe Chatrier for her French Open semifinal on Thursday with earbuds in place, listening to a playlist she explained is “called ‘Rap’ — and I can’t say the next word.”
And in some ways, she is an old soul, anything but a run-of-the-mill teen — or run-of-the-mill tennis player.
So when Gauff had wrapped up her 6-3, 6-1 victory over Martina Trevisan to reach her first Grand Slam final, setting up a showdown against No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek on Saturday, the American thought of the recent spate of mass shootings in her home country and wrote in marker on a courtside TV camera: “Peace. End gun violence.”
“I woke up this morning, and I saw there was another shooting, and I think it’s just crazy. I know that it’s getting more attention now. But … this has been an issue, at least in my head, for a long time, and I definitely think there needs to be some reform put into place,” Gauff said. “I think now especially, being 18, I’ve really been trying to educate myself around certain situations, because now I have the right to vote and I want to use that wisely.”
A willingness to speak out about issues of significance, and a wide-lens view of the world, reflect the sort of maturity that has served her well, especially with so much attention from such a young age. She won the French Open junior title at 14. She became the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and then beat Venus Williams on the way to the fourth round there at 15.