PARIS – It’s easy to be in a hurry when you reach the fourth round of Wimbledon at the age of 15, beating one of your stars, Venus Williams, in your opening match. It’s easy to be in a hurry when the sponsors and podium are already in place, you hear from the experts and the voice inside your head that you have what it takes to be a champion.
But tennis is a much more complex game than others: a mixture of physical, technical and psychological aspects with plenty of time to think between points and serve, many tournaments, changing time and defeats to move around.
Coco Gauff, even if she was 18 years old, had to be more patient than she planned. But the young American’s abilities and performance under pressure began to converge. On Saturday, she’ll play in her first Grand Slam singles final, facing top seed Iga Swiatek at the French Open for the title and Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.
“There’s a fine line between believing in yourself and almost pushing yourself too much,” Gauff said Thursday after her semi-final win, 6-3, 6-1, looking as usual older than her years.
Gauff, the youngest Grand Slam singles finalist since Maria Sharapova’s 2004 Wimbledon win at the age of 17, was comparing her expectations to those she had a season ago, when she reached the French Open quarter-finals. She found herself unable to manage pressure and critical points and threw her racket through the mud in frustration while losing to Barbora Krezhikova, the eventual unranked champ.
“At that moment, I wanted it very much,” she said. “While now, I definitely want it. Yes, who wouldn’t? But also, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it didn’t happen to me.”
The odds, make no mistake, are still great against it. Gauff faces the toughest task available in women’s tennis.
Swiatek, 21, extended her winning streak to 34 matches in the first semi-final on Thursday, defeating 20th seed Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour.
This result and breakout pace were typical of Swiatek, the increasingly powerful and imposing Polish superstar. She hasn’t lost a game since February and has beaten Gauff in their previous two straight sets: win, 7-6 (3), 6-3, on red clay in last year’s Italian Open semi-final and win, 6. 3, 6-1 , on a hard court in the round of 16 at this year’s Miami Open in March.
“She’s definitely the favorite to get the match going on paper,” said Gauff. “But I think going in, I’m going to play for free and play the best tennis. I think in a Grand Slam final, anything can happen.”
Gauff’s ability to expand points with his speed and defensive skills is sure to force Swiatek to make more mistakes than usual. Under the guidance of Diego Moyano, a veteran coach who joined her squad in April, Gauff has improved her tactics, according to her father, Cory Gauff, who has been her head coach since childhood.
Playing on her strengths means not rushing all the time,” Corey Gauff said in an interview Thursday night. He added, “He’s able to let her know how he feels on the other side of the net when she does something. He’s trying to get her to understand why the decision was made and what the effect was. He’s been very effective compared to my dad. We parents tend to be the command and control, and that doesn’t always work out.” “.
But clay is still Swiatek’s favorite fabric. She won the 2020 French Open at the age of 19. Losing in the second round of that tournament to Trevisan, Gave looked increasingly distraught as her double-faults rose. She finished with a score of 19. On Thursday, she finished with just two, her lowest total at Roland Garros.
“She learns to manage emotions and understands that double faults are part of the game and you don’t need to overreact,” said Corey Goff.
Although Coco Gauff was only 4-3 on clay this year before Roland Garros, she has yet to drop a set in six matches. She said, “I’ll be honest.” “This year I didn’t get the best results this year. So that was not expected at all, really.”
Gauff graduated from high school online for the year earlier this spring, and she celebrated her achievement with a photo taken in front of the Eiffel Tower before the French Open. Corey Goff thinks that helped her fly higher in Paris.
“This release upon completion of high school or college is real,” he said. “She always had work to deliver, and it’s always in the back of your mind. I feel like this is the first tournament you’ve played without homework.”
But she is still following current events, and on Thursday, after Trevisan’s defeat, she walked through the red mud of the now-familiar signature on the glass of the television camera and decided, quite spontaneously, to make a statement about the last month’s elementary school shooting in Ovaldi, Texas, that killed 19. A student and two teachers.
Hello. Gough wrote, drawing a heart next to her first name.
“This was just a message for people back home to watch and for people around the world to watch,” she said, adding, “I hope it gets to people’s heads in the office hoping to change things.”
Gauff said she has been influenced by athletes such as former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and fellow tennis star Naomi Osaka, who have spoken candidly on social and cultural issues. But Goff’s family has also made it clear to her from a young age that she can have an influence out of court.
“My dad told me I could change the world with my racquet,” she said. “He didn’t mean it just by playing tennis. He meant to talk about issues like this. The first thing my dad said to me after I walked off the court was: ‘I’m proud of you, and I love what you wrote on camera.'”
Corey Goff said he first told his daughter about the impact she could have when she was six or seven years old.
“I’m glad she knows what’s going on around her,” he said. “She has an 8-year-old brother who is in primary school. It is not difficult to get home. I am glad she understands this and draws attention and sympathy for him. She does not just hit the tennis ball. She is a global citizen.”
Tennis is definitely still a focus at Roland Garros. The 18th seed Gauff is sure to rise to a career high at number 13 and could rise to No. 8 if she defeats Swiatek. It’s not just aiming for singles title. She and partner, Jessica Pegula, qualified for the semi-finals in the women’s doubles and will face fellow American Taylor Townsend and Madison Keys on Friday.
Goff’s younger brothers – 8-year-old Cameron and 14-year-old Cody – are due to arrive in Paris on Friday morning after flying out of the family’s home in Delray Beach, Florida.
“They’re coming for the final singles and hopefully the final doubles as well,” said Corey Gauff.
Cameron’s birthday is on Sunday.
“He’s coming to Paris at eight and leaving at nine,” Cory Goff said with a chuckle.
Cameron’s older sister has a chance to leave the Grand Slam champion.