Gauff inspired by Jimmy Butler's mentality

Heat star offered her NBA Finals tickets back in April, before Miami made the playoffs

Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

Coco Gauff knew the Miami Heat were going to reach the NBA Finals, even when they hadn't even made it to the playoffs. Why? Because Jimmy Butler told her so!

Miami star Butler offered Gauff tickets to the NBA Finals back in April, when the Heat had just lost a game to the Atlanta Hawks in the Play-in tournament, and hadn't secured their spot in the playoffs yet.

Guided by Butler, Miami not only made the playoffs, but as the No.8 seeds, they muscled their way past the Hawks and the New York Knicks, before halting a Boston Celtics comeback to clinch the Eastern Conference final series 4-3 on Monday night and book an NBA Finals showdown with the Denver Nuggets.

In her pre-Roland-Garros press conference on Friday, Gauff, who is a big Miami Heat fan, told reporters in Paris she had a Jimmy Butler story but she won't tell it until Miami reached the Finals.

Following her three-set first-round victory over Rebeka Masarova on Tuesday, the 19-year-old American finally shared the story.

"This was before the Heat were in the playoffs, he offered me tickets to see the last home game of the season," said Gauff, referring to Butler, who is a massive tennis fan.

"Then he DM'd me a couple weeks later, asking if I wanted more tickets to see the postseason. I said, 'I won't be here. I'll be in Madrid and then Rome and then France'.

"And then he said, 'Okay, when we make the finals, let me know if your family wants some tickets'.

"So this was before we were even in the playoffs. This is before we lost to the Hawks for the first play-in game.

"Everybody is like we have a 3% chance of making the Finals, but when he sent me that, I knew we were making the Finals because he didn't say 'if we make the finals', he said 'when we make the finals'."

Gauff took a screenshot of that conversation with Butler and sent it to her family at the time, telling them she was certain the Heat were going to the Finals.

"So that's my Jimmy Butler story. He pretty much said we were going to the Finals before we even qualified for the playoffs, and I just really like that mentality of him," added the 19-year-old.

Gauff did not stay up watch Game 7 against the Celtics on Monday night, given it took place at 2:30am Paris time, but said she was "relieved" when she checked on the results the moment she woke up.

American No.12 seed Frances Tiafoe told on Monday he would be staying up to watch Game 7 and he backed the Heat to make it past the Celtics.

"I have a ton of respect for that guy. I truly think he's underrated and he's one of my favourites in the NBA," Tiafoe said of Butler.

Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis is a Phoenix Suns fan but has been closely following the conference finals and predicts the Denver Nuggets will walk away as NBA champions.