PARIS — Still working on her French, Coco Gauff is already excelling at the French Open.
At age 18, the young Floridian is into the women’s singles final at Roland Garros without losing a set and continued her poised and precocious run on Thursday with a resounding 6-3, 6-1 victory over Martina Trevisan of Italy.
Gauff — in her first Grand Slam singles final — will now face the most daunting task available in women’s tennis: trying to stop No. 1 ranked Iga Swiatek.
Swiatek, 21, extended her winning streak to 34 matches in Thursday’s first semifinal by overwhelming Daria Kasatkina, 6-2, 6-1.
Swiatek, powerful and confident, has done lots of overwhelming this season. She has not lost since February and beat Gauff, 6 -3, 6-1, in the round of 16 at the Miami Open. With her excellent groundstrokes and explosive movement, she has squeezed the suspense out of match after match.
“She is reaching a lot of balls,” said Kasatkina, the Russian who has lost to Swiatek four times in a hurry this season. “I mean, even some of the balls that you are thinking that the point is over, she’s still there, and she’s taking the ball pretty early, which makes it really tough. It’s difficult when the player is moving good and then she can transit this to attack mode.”
But Gauff, one of the fastest players on tour, can also turn defense into offense, which is one of the reasons she excels on clay. Though she made her first big breakthrough on the circuit on the grass courts of Wimbledon by reaching the fourth round there as a qualifier at age 15, she has had her best Grand Slam singles results in Paris: reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros last year before losing to Barbora Krejcikova, the eventual champion.
Now, Gauff, with better control of her strokes and her big-point emotions, has gone two rounds further, becoming the youngest women’s singles finalist at the French Open since Kim Clijsters in 2001 and the youngest singles finalist at any Grand Slam event since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17.
Gauff, who has admitted to struggling with the expectations that come with such early success, has been emphasizing the process over the destination of late. She kept the same approach as she looked forward to Saturday’s final.
“I think I’m in the mind-set now that it doesn’t matter,” she said of the result. “I’ll be happy regardless. My parents are going to love me regardless. I’m going go as if it’s another match. Yes, it’s a Grand Slam final, but there are so many things going on in the world, especially in the U.S. So I think it’s not important to stress over a tennis match.”
Gauff included a written message on the television camera glass she autographed after winning her match: “Peace. End Gun violence.”
“That was just a message for the people back at home to watch and for people who are all around the world to watch,” Gauff told reporters afterward. She added: “Hopefully it gets into the heads of people in office to hopefully change things.”