Coco Gauff will go from celebrating her high school graduation in front of the Eiffel Tower to playing for the French Open title in a span of two weeks.
Gauff, an 18-year-old American, beat Italian Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 in Thursday’s semifinals to become the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova won her first major at Wimbledon in 2004.
Her reward: A date with top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who is riding a 34-match win streak, tying the longest run in women’s tennis since 2000. NBC and Peacock Premium air live coverage Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.
“I have nothing to lose,” Gauff said. “She’s definitely the favorite.”
Gauff became the first woman to make a major final without playing a top-30 opponent in more than 40 years, winning her six matches without dropping a set. She dispatched the 59th-ranked Trevisan in a matchup of first-time major semifinalists.
“I’m a little bit in shock right now,” Gauff said in an on-court interview. “I’m going to be happy regardless [of the final result]. I know my parents are going to love me regardless, so I’m just going to go into it like another match. Yeah, it’s a Grand Slam final, but there’s so many things going on in the world right now, 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.”
Gauff illustrated her grounded mindset moments after the match. She signed a video camera, “Peace End Gun Violence” and spoke about it in multiple interviews.
“Trying to spread that message of what’s going in the U.S. around the world,” she said on NBC, noting that she had two friends who were “part of” the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “We definitely need some reform and some change to go on to control what’s happening in the United States. Now that I’m 18 and of the age to vote, I’ve been really paying attention to what’s going on so that when my time comes I can make the right decision, and I also want to use this moment to encourage people my age to vote locally because those are the people who can really effect your community.”
Gauff continued her steady progression from prodigy to tour pro.
Four years ago, she nearly played Swiatek in the French Open junior final, but Swiatek squandered a match point in the semifinals. Gauff instead beat her doubles partner, Caty McNally, in the final to become at 14 the youngest junior Grand Slam champion since Martina Hingis in 1994.
The next year, Coco Mania broke out at Wimbledon. She beat Venus Williams in the first round and became the youngest player to reach the fourth round of a major since Anna Kournikova in 1996.
In 2020, Gauff beat Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, becoming the youngest player to defeat a defending champion at a major since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
Last year, she made the French Open quarterfinals, becoming the youngest player to get that far in a major singles draw since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006.
Gauff’s strong play throughout the tour calendar has her at No. 23 in the world rankings. She will move to No. 13 with a runner-up on Saturday. Win, and she will be No. 8 in the world and the highest-ranked American.
“I’m definitely ready to win one, but I’m not putting pressure on myself to win one,” she said. “There’s a fine line between believing in yourself and almost pushing yourself too much.”
Swiatek has similar self-belief, which propelled her since Australian Ash Barty‘s shock retirement in March. Swiatek became the first Polish player to be No. 1 when Barty retired, and she hasn’t lost a match since the ascension.
In 2020, she came to Paris with no title expectations and marched to victory without dropping a set. This year, she entered as an overwhelming favorite and delivered while the rest of the top 10 lost before the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, she swept Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 in 64 mostly dominant minutes.
She tied the longest women’s win streak since Venus Williams won 35 in 2000. Serena Williams also won 34 in a row in 2013.
“This season everything clicked,” Swiatek said. “I couldn’t get rid of the expectations like fully, but I tried to accept that, that they are going to be there and it’s going to stress me a little bit more.”
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Coco Gauff with a message for peace after advancing to the French Open final. pic.twitter.com/NqA4FEpzS2
— On Her Turf (@OnHerTurf) June 2, 2022
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) June 3, 2018