Gauff keeping perspective ahead of first Slam final

The youngest RG finalist in 21 years showed maturity beyond her years after biggest moment of her career

Coco Gauff, demi-finales, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Stephanie Livaudais

With a smile beamed up to the heavens, Coco Gauff raised both of her arms in celebration as she sealed a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Martina Trevisan on Thursday – one that sent her into her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland-Garros.

At 18 years old, Gauff became the youngest finalist at Roland-Garros since Kim Clijsters in 2001, fulfilling the promise that had many tipping her as a prodigy since her days as a junior.

World No.1 Iga Swiatek – and her 34-match winning streak – will be waiting for her in the final. 

But the American had a different topic on her mind after the match.

When prompted to sign the camera lens after her win, she used the opportunity to send a powerful message instead: “Peace” and “End Gun Violence” – a reference to the recent wave of mass shootings that has hit her home country.

While she’s been competing on the sport’s biggest stages, Gauff has certainly not been unmoved.

“Since I was younger… my dad told me I could change the world with my racquet. He didn't mean that by just playing tennis. He meant speaking out on issues like this,” Gauff said during her post-match press conference.

“The first thing my dad said to me after I got off court [was] I'm proud of you and I love what you wrote on the camera.”

Wise beyond her 18 years, Gauff has found that the key to her success has been keeping her achievements in perspective whenever the wins have started to pile up in Paris.

A Roland-Garros girls' champion in 2018, the American exploded onto the global tennis scene a year later as a 15-year-old with a breakthrough fourth-round result at Wimbledon. She has been on a steady climb since, peaking at No.15 in the WTA rankings and winning two trophies on the indoor hardcourts in Linz and clay courts in Parma.

But along with growing up (she just turned 18 in March) and maturing into a regular threat on the women’s tour, has come the realisation that tennis is in fact just a game. A game that has since become her profession, one that pays her generously and gives her a platform, sure – but a game nonetheless.

“I feel like I put myself in a bubble to the point where it was like tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis,” Gauff reflected. “And I realise, really talking to my family in general, my grandmother, she's always like, ‘There's more to life than this. You just need to relax when you're out there’.

“I always brushed it over, like, ‘You can't relax in these situations’. Now I look at it, I'm like, ‘You're right, I can relax in these situations. It's just a tennis match… Whatever happens, it happens’. I think that's probably helped me being in that mindset.”

So far, it has been paying off in a big way.

Gauff has yet to drop a set on her way to the final, and it has not been a straightforward road to get there.

Gauff maneouvered past Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 7-6(4), and dodged an upset from Kaia Kanepi, who had ousted former champion Garbine Muguruza in the previous round. The tricky 31st seed Elise Mertens and former Roland-Garros finalist Sloane Stephens came next, but Gauff again handled both with aplomb.

With a confident win over Martina Trevisan – the same player who knocked her out on these courts in the 2020 second round – Gauff moved into her first Grand Slam final in singles.

And she could reach another tomorrow, partnered with countrywoman Jessica Pegula for an all-American doubles semi-final against Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend.

>> ALSO READ: Pegula rooting for Gauff clean sweep

Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Roland Garros 2022, doubles quarter-finals© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Gauff, as always, is determined to keep those milestones in perspective, as she has all fortnight long.

Up against Swiatek, a player that leads her 2-0 in their previous meetings, the 18-year-old said she has nothing to lose. And, perhaps most importantly, she now knows that her sense of self-worth and self-belief won’t be shaken by Saturday’s potentially career-changing result, either. 

“I'm definitely ready to win [a Slam] but I'm not putting pressure on myself to win one,” Gauff said. “I think there's a fine line between believing in yourself and almost pushing yourself too much…

“If I do lift the trophy, honestly, I don't think my life is going to change,” she added. “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.”