ROLAND GARROS — Four years ago, Coco Gauff made history in Paris. At just 14 years old, she became the youngest player since Martina Hingis in 1994 to win the French Open girls’ singles title. Now, she could be a two-time senior champion by Sunday lunchtime, with singles and doubles finals to come on consecutive days.
When Gauff made her first waves in tennis back in 2018, Iga Swiatek played juniors too, reaching the semi-final, spurning a match point before losing to Caty McNally; Gauff’s good friend was subsequently beaten 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the final.
McNally lost in the first round of qualifying this year. Swiatek and Gauff will meet in the final. They were clearly on different paths.
In fact, Gauff was tipped for greatness even before the age of 14. If you glance at the photos, you do not have to look too carefully to see coach Patrick Mouratoglou, front and centre on court, grinning as the girl he first saw play at the age of 10 took her first step towards greatness.
French Open final
- Date: Saturday 4 June
- Time: Not before 2pm BST
- Venue: Court Philippe Chatrier
- TV: Eurosport 1 (Sky channel 410, BT 435, Virgin 521)
- Live stream: Online-only Discovery+ subscription sport package available for £6.99 per month or £59.99 annually on Sky, Amazon Prime Video channels, Roku and Vodafone and across LG Smart TV, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV
- Draw: Iga Swiatek (1) vs Coco Gauff (18)
“She’s very special and has the two major qualities that you cannot teach,” Mouratoglou said a few months later.
“First of all, she is a great competitor. That is something very difficult to teach. Secondly, she’s a natural athlete. You can build [someone] physically, but natural athleticism is something you have or don’t have.”
Gauff will play not one but two finals this weekend after she and Jessica Pegula reached the final of the women’s doubles.
If she wins on Saturday, her party will probably be a low-key affair – she will be back at Roland Garros early Sunday morning for the doubles final, which is scheduled for 10.30am.
But even so, Gauff has already said she won’t turn into a party animal.
“If I do lift the trophy, I don’t think my life is going to change really,” she said. “I know it sounds kind of bad to say that, but the people who love me are still going to love me regardless if I lift the trophy or not.
“Obviously if I do, it will probably be more attention from the people around the world. But in general in that aspect, I’m not worried about how my life is going to change, because I really don’t think it’s going to change.”
Swiatek already knows how much winning a grand slam tournament can change a teenager’s life. She was only a year older than Gauff when she triumphed here two years ago, and then became world No 1 earlier this year when Ashleigh Barty retired.
The tournament favourite has been impressed by Gauff’s progress. “I think she’s also had a huge amount of pressure in her life, and being always like the youngest one and the one that is supposed to be the future, it must have been tough,” Swiatek said. “So from what I see on court, she’s developing every year basically. When I see her, I tend to forget that she’s 18.”
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