- Alex Sharp

American 14-year-old Cori Gauff was the youngest competitor in the girls' singles draw in Paris.

Cori Gauff / RG 2018 / Juniors© Amélie Laurin / FFT

Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff is the youngest girls’ champion to rule Roland-Garros since 1993 following a captivating 1-6 6-3 7-6(1) comeback against fellow American Caty McNally.

It’s been a meteoric rise for Florida-born Gauff, who surged to the US Open final last September, before claiming the first ever ‘Rendez-vous a Roland-Garros’ junior wildcard on home soil.

The 14-year-old, who counts Sloane Stephens as a close friend, stormed towards the trophy showdown without dropping a set in Paris, but became embroiled in an almighty battle on the ‘Bullring’ No.1 Court.

“Obviously I'm very excited and happy, because this is my first time in my first main draw Roland-Garros. It was a tough fight, but at the end it was worth it,” reflected Gauff, claiming her runners-up run in New York provided the platform for major success today.

“It definitely helped me, because I was nervous. I remember being nervous at the US Open where I couldn't really play,” added the American referring to the 6-2 6-0 defeat at the hands of compatriot Amanda Anisimova. “Even though I was nervous, I just told myself to keep fighting.”

McNally, who helped the USA win the Junior Fed Cup title last autumn, put in a pulsating start to race to the opening set with just 24 minutes on the clock.



The 16-year-old from Ohio canvassed the net with aplomb and clinch a fourth successive game for a 2-0 lead in the second set. Yet a deft disguised dropshot from Gauff ignited a break back as the youngster began to come out on top of the longer exchanges with McNally and level the final.

In the decider, it was 2017 quarter-finalist McNally who demonstrated excellent retrieval skills to wrestle back the initiative and take a commanding 3-0 advantage.

“Last night my cousin texted me, and she said, ‘No matter what happens, just say calm, and just remember that you can win,’” added the teenager, who frequently trains at the renowned Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, where she has met her idol Serena Williams. “I just kept thinking about that text. I just kept grinding every point. At the end, it was worth it.”

Undeterred, Gauff restored parity and edged 4-3 ahead with a bruising forehand cross-court winner.



The rallies ratcheted up several notches of intensity and quality, with McNally surrendering the chance to serve out the contest. Moments later two championship points went begging for the 14-year-old as McNally kept her title tilt alive with a miraculous last-ditch lob.

“I knew that I still had a tie-breaker to go through, I couldn't really dwell on that, otherwise I probably would have end up losing. I give it to Caty. She always fights,” Gauff said.

After nearly two hours, Gauff motored through the tie-break and flung her racket into the air in celebration, collapsing to the red dirt in disbelief as a Grand Slam champion.

Five of the past seven girls’ junior Grand Slams have landed in American arms, a trend Gauff is eager to continue in her pursuit of greatness.

 

“I think it's really great, because we are all cheering for each other. We always want to keep the championship home. It's really nice to see all of my friends doing good and doing well in tournaments.”

Tseng seizes boys' title

Earlier on Saturday Chun Hsin Tseng lifted his first Grand Slam title with a commanding 7-6(5) 6-2 display against world No.1 Sebastian Baez in the Roland-Garros boys’ singles final.

“I’m very happy, it’s very exciting because I’ve been preparing for moments like this for many years,” Tseng told rolandgarros.com. “It was always my dream to win here.”

The 16-year-old missed out on major silverware losing the Australian Open final to Sebastian Korda in January. However, Tseng gained revenge on Korda in the semi-finals in Paris and used the experience from Melbourne as extra motivation in the trophy shootout.

“Oh yes of course. Losing in Australia was tough,” said the Taipei Chinese junior. “But I think that as it’s my favourite court surface I was able to be more confident and comfortable on court here.”

In their first meeting it was the Argentine top seed who consolidated an early break with a piercing backhand winner arrowed down the line to soar 3-1 ahead.

“At the beginning I think I was a little bit tight and nervous and after I started to relax and enjoy the match,” the No.4 seed said. “That let me hit the ball better, I found my angles which really helped.”

Tseng advanced to the final without dropping a set and illustrated his battling qualities to rattle through three successive games against Baez to get back into the match. Baez fended off another break at 3-4 with a sumptuous drop volley to help level the scoreboard, before a tie-break was required to separate the prodigies.

A brave drive volley at 5-5 from the Chinese Taipei talent proved the difference; Tseng took the opening set and used that momentum to launch 2-0 ahead in the second set with an audacious serve-and-volley play.

Baez could not find a persistent pattern to trouble Tseng, who connected with a final volley to scribe his name onto the Roland-Garros honour roll.