French Open: Coco Gauff reaches first Grand Slam final and faces Iga Swiatek
American teenager Coco Gauff reached her first Grand Slam final with victory in the French Open last four, setting up a tantalising meeting with world number one Iga Swiatek.
Gauff, 18, won 6-3 6-1 against unseeded Italian Martina Trevisan on the Paris clay in her maiden major semi-final.
Swiatek, 21, completed a serene journey into the Roland Garros final with a 6-2 6-1 win over 20th seed Daria Kasatkina.
The Pole earned a 34th successive win to move into her second major final.
Swiatek, the 2020 Roland Garros champion, has dropped just one set this fortnight on the Paris clay.
“It is a pretty special moment and emotional,” said Swiatek, who meets Gauff on Saturday. “I am grateful to be healthy and in that place.”
Gauff, seeded 18th, was the heavy favourite against Trevisan and has become the youngest finalist at Roland Garros since Kim Clijsters in 2001.
“I think I’m in a bit of shock right now and I didn’t know how to react at the end of the match,” Gauff said.
“I have no words to describe how I feel.”
The teenage phenomenon became a global star when she reached the Wimbledon fourth round as a 15-year-old in 2019 and has now become the Grand Slam finalist that many predicted.
Gauff won her maiden WTA singles title three months after Wimbledon and ended 2019 inside the top world’s 100.
After her quarter-final win at Roland Garros on Wednesday, she spoke about learning how to manage expectations - internally as well as externally - and how “enjoying life” was helping to achieve her goals on the court.
Gauff’s clarity of mind was particularly evident as she closed out victory against Trevisan, serving out the final game with a nerveless hold to love.
Gauff edged a tight first set, where there were breaks opportunities in eight of the nine games, by winning the final three games.
The American also managed to contain her frustrations. Trevisan makes a noisy groan after every shot and Gauff complained to chair umpire Marijana Veljovic that it was distracting her.
She also had a couple of disagreements with Veljovic about line calls and where ball marks were on the clay.
But Gauff put those interruptions behind her in the second set. She finally broke Trevisan’s serve in a lengthy fourth game and then won the next three to earn an achievement that many thought was her destiny.
“I’ve not been nervous all tournament, which is surprising,” said Gauff, who has also reached the doubles semi-finals alongside fellow American Jessica Pegula.
“In the morning I go for a walk and that clears my head and after that I feel great.”
Clinical Swiatek matches Serena and has Venus in her sights
Not since Serena Williams in her prime has there been as strong a favourite for a Grand Slam women’s singles title as Swiatek.
In a stunning start to 2022, the Polish player has won five consecutive tournaments - in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome - and taken over as the WTA world number one following Ashleigh Barty’s surprise retirement.
A dominating win against Kasatkina moved her alongside Williams in holding the joint second longest streak by any WTA player this century.
Swiatek will equal Venus Williams’ 35-match streak as the longest if she wins the Roland Garros title on Saturday.
Swiatek, like she has in all of her matches so far, started strongly and broke the serve of her opponent at the first opportunity.
Kasatkina responded instantly to wipe that out but the Russian gifted another opportunity to Swiatek at 15-30 in the fifth game when she hit an overhead volley well long.
The gasps of the crowd indicated how bad a miss that was and that proved to be a turning point.
Swiatek punished her further with a forehand winner to break for a 4-2 lead, continuing to swamp Kasatkina and clinching a 35-minute set with a crosscourt backhand winner.
Kasatkina had actually lost fewer games than Swiatek in reaching the semi-final stage, but found the top seed to be a different class of opponent.
A break for 3-1 in the second set indicated Swiatek was going to forge ahead for a routine win and that proved to be case.
Swiatek seized upon a double fault from Kasatkina for 0-30 at 4-1, whacking clinical winners off both flanks to break and then served out victory with an ace.