Eighteen-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff has advanced to her first major final, with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Martina Trevisan in the semifinal round at the French Open. Gauff is the youngest woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 2004 and she’s the youngest American woman to reach a major final since a 17-year-old Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open. Gauff will face 2020 French Open Champion and No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek, who is currently on a 34-match win streak.
“I’m in a mindset now like: ‘It doesn’t matter.’ I mean, I’m going to be happy, regardless. My parents are going to love me, regardless. So I’m just going to go into it like another match,” the 18th-seeded Gauff said. “I mean, yeah, it’s a Grand Slam final, but there are so many things going on in the world right now, and especially in the U.S., a lot of stuff is happening right now, so I think it’s not important to stress over a tennis match.”
As is customary following a match. The winning player looks into the main television camera and gives a message to the television audience. Players also sign the camera lens, Gauff did so with a particularly poignant message. “Peace. End gun violence.”
The United States is still reeling after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead. There have been 233 mass shootings in the US in 2022.
Gauff’s-level headed approach will serve her well in her first final. Her familiarity with her opponent might also help. Swiatek and Gauff have known each other since their days as tennis juniors and almost played in the 2018 French Open Junior final. But Swiatek lost her semifinal match. Gauff went on to win the final.
Gauff: I'm really happy to play her specifically, b/c I always wanted to play her in a final, and I knew it was going to happen eventually, even in juniors that it was going to happen, just from the way our games were both projecting. I just didn't think it would happen so soon.”
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) June 2, 2022
Gauff is next in line to carry on the proud tradition of American women’s tennis. From Billie Jean King to Chrissy Evert to Monica Seles to Venus and Serena Williams. These are the best American women’s tennis players ever and some of the best in the sport overall.
Gauff is also next in line to carry on the excellence that is Black Girl Magic in women’s tennis. Venus and Serena Williams changed the game for all women but specifically for young Black girls, showing what was possible in a lily-white country club sport. Two sisters from Compton originally coached by their father Richard Williams, who had no formal tennis training, rose to number one in the world, and the younger Serena became the greatest of all time.
Venus and Serena were and likely still are Gauff’s heroes and idols. We have no way of projecting what Gauff will be and/or the major count when her career ends. But we do know that there is a blueprint for her to follow. She won’t be the first, nor will she have to carry any of the burdens that come with that. There will be expectations and comparisons for sure, because that’s what human beings and fans do.
Earlier during this year’s French Open she talked about how in the past she was worried about fulfilling other people’s expectations and that she no longer does that. Another sign of maturity for the young phenom. When anyone gets to the point where external factors and expectations hold no meaning and you focus on what you can control and doing things on your own terms, success usually follows.
The women’s final is Saturday. Win or lose, Gauff is well on her way.