American teenager Coco Gauff reaches first Grand Slam final at French Open

PARIS – Coco Gauff sat clear-faced in her transition seat of the French Open after removing one set from her first Grand Slam final at 18 – just 18! and quietly ate a few sliced ​​pieces of pineapple and other fruit, seemingly carefree in the world.

Her opponent in Thursday’s semifinals at Roland Garros, Martina Trevisan, took a medical break so that her right thigh could be treated and taped by a coach. It was such a delay that could hit some players, could make them cool down, give up momentum, think too much about what’s at stake.

Not Gauff. Not on this sunny, windy afternoon at Court Philippe Chatrier. When the American arrived in Paris, she was celebrating her recent high school graduation by posing for caps and gowns next to the Eiffel Tower while holding her diploma. After a 6-3, 6-1 win over 59th-ranked Trevisan, Gauff will return to that stadium on Saturday to face No. 1. Iga Swiatek for the championship.

“I’m just thinking, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ I mean, I’ll be happy, no matter what. My parents will love me, no matter what. “I mean, yes, it’s a Grand Slam final, but there are so many things going on in the world right now, and especially in the United States a lot of things are going on right now, so I don’t think it’s important to emphasize during a tennis match. ‘ ‘

And then, in a message relating to the recent series of mass shootings in her home country, Gauff wrote in a marker on a court television camera: “Peace. Stop gun violence.”

Willingness to talk about important things, and a wide-eyed view of the world, reflect the kind of maturity that has served her well, especially with so much attention from such a young age. She won the French Open junior title at 14. She became the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and then beat Venus Williams on the way to the fourth round there at 15.

Gauff, who turned 18 in March, is the youngest woman to reach the Grand Slam final since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova at 2004 Wimbledon and the youngest American woman to reach a major final since 17-year-old Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open.

She is also the youngest finalist at the clay court major tournament since 2001, when Kim Clijsters was the runner-up a day after her 18th birthday.

“I’m a little shocked now,” Gauff said with a laugh after using his still-improving forearm to open the court and his long backhand to seal points against Trevisan. “I didn’t know how to react at the end of the match. I have no words to describe how I feel. ”

Gauff has won all 12 sets she has played in the last two weeks. She didn’t need to navigate the most difficult route to get here: Due to all the surprising results and early exits of the main players from the bracket, she has so far faced only one ranked enemy, No. 31. Elise Mertens.

Trevisan is a 28-year-old left-hander who entered the day in a 10-game winning streak, including her first career WTA title in Rabat, Morocco, a week before play began at Roland Garros. She also defeated Gauff the only time they had played – in the second round in Paris two years ago.

But Gauff is nothing but a student and a fighter, someone who looks better and better with a racket in her hand every time she takes the court. Much of that, perhaps greater than her fast speeds, which reached 115 mph (185 kph) on Thursday, is her supernatural coolness, the ability of an old soul to see an obstacle and not be intimidated.

Early on, a Trevisan shot landed near a baseline and was ruled to make it 30-all. Gauff asked chair referee Marijana Veljovic to come over to take a closer look, and the pair engaged in an extended discussion, both showing the landing spot. Gauff crouched down to inspect while some spectators whistled and mocked, as they often do here when players argue for a verdict.

A bunch of mouths then cascaded over Gauff as she walked to the net to check a mark after one of her back hands landed wide during a game in which Trevisan would break to make it 3-all.

Carefree, Gauff broke right back to lead 4-3, knocking back a winner who brought Mom and Dad out of their seats in the playing guest box. The match would last about 50 more minutes, but the result would never be in any real doubt.

“Oh honestly I wasn’t nervous coming in today. I wasn’t nervous at all, which is a surprise,” Gauff said. “The only time I’m a little nervous is maybe in the morning. I go for a walk in the morning, so that clears my head and after that, I feel great. ”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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