Coco Gauff had matters beyond tennis on her mind when she reached the French Open final on Thursday at the age of just 18.
After crushing Italy’s Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 in their semi-final to become the youngest French Open finalist in 21 years, the American wrote “Peace End Gun Violence” on the lens of an on-court camera.
The United States has suffered a wave of mass shootings in recent weeks, including four people fatally shot at a Tulsa medical building in Oklahoma on Wednesday; another at an elementary school in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers; and an attack by a self-declared white supremacist at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in which 10 people died. Most Americans support stronger gun laws, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week.
Gauff will play world No 1 Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s final but she said events at home had put her achievements in perspective.
“I think I am in a mind now like it does not matter,” Gauff said when asked about pressure ahead of the final. “I am going to be happy regardless. My parents are going to love me regardless. So I am going into it as another match.
“Yeah it’s a grand slam final but there are so many things going on in the world right now, especially in the United States, a lot of stuff is happening right now. I am not going to stress over a tennis match.”
Gauff, who turned 18 in March, is the youngest finalist at the French Open since 2001, when Kim Clijsters was the runner-up a day after her 18th birthday.
Gauff has won all 12 sets she has played over the past two weeks. She did not need to navigate the most arduous path to get this far: because of surprising results and early exits by top players from the bracket, she has faced only one seeded foe so far, No 31 Elise Mertens.
Now comes someone who will present a much tougher test and will require a higher level of quality. Swiatek is not only already a grand slam champion – she won the French Open in 2020 – but is unbeaten in her past 34 matches after eliminating No 20 Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday.