Coco Gauff into French Open final, youngest major finalist in 18 years

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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.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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