Rising star

June 5, 2022

Putting up a baseline fortress against Martina Trevisan, the 18-year-old Coco Gauff advanced to her first major singles final in a rout before writing, “Peace. End gun violence,” on a camera lens.

Rising star

“This is not the one to attack, this is not the one to attack," Coco Gauff kept telling herself during her 6-3, 6-1 semifinal win over Martina Trevisan at Roland Garros last Thursday.

The 18-year-old said that, because she's American -which is code for "clay-court novice" in Paris - she has to "remind myself to be more patient" and wait for the right ball to try to belt for a winner.

In truth, Gauff isn't all that impatient, and she isn't a clay-court novice. She won a title on the surface last year, and she likes to defend, rally, run, counter-punch, and build points, rather than drill the ball as hard as she can with every swing.

Still, she obviously took her own advice on Thursday, and made sure not rush anything. Against Trevisan, Gauff began by settling back behind the baseline and ceding the court position to her opponent. She hit with weight, depth, spin, and speed, but she didn't go for outright winners. She put up a baseline fortress and dared Trevisan to find a way through it. The Italian, forced to go for more than she wanted, made errors instead; 36 of them, against just 13 winners. Whenever she scrapped her way into a promising position, she undid it with a ball that sailed long.

That was just what the doctor, or the sports psychologist, ordered for Gauff, who was a little edgy playing her first Grand Slam semifinal. In the early going, she complained about Trevisan's grunting, and argued for an un-Coco-like length of time about a line call that didn't go her way.

"Today I think I played probably the best I could," she said. "Today in the moment, you know, I think we were both kind of shaky in the first couple games, had a lot of early unforced errors, but after that, it was smooth sailing from there."

By the end, once she was up a set and a break, Gauff was finally able to relax and show what she can do on offense. With Trevisan serving at 1-4 in the second set, Gauff won one point with a jumping smash, and another with a big forehand pass. Serving for the match at 5-1, she lofted a perfect lob-volley over Trevisan's head to get to 15-0; ended a well-constructed rally with a drop shot winner for 30-0; his a forehand winner for 40-0; and closed the match with an unreturnable serve.

Was that a sneak preview of the game Gauff will bring to this court, and other Grand Slams courts, in the future? American fans hope so. That kind of controlled aggression and precise shot-making is obviously in her.

"I don't think I consider myself a veteran," Gauff said when she was asked if she felt like one after four seasons on tour. "I mean, I do when I step on the court; I feel like I've learned sooner how to handle myself in certain situations than other players have."

Gauff is still learning what she's capable of as a player. But as a public personality, she has always seemed to know exactly what to say and do. She showed that again on Thursday, when she wrote "Peace. End gun violence," on a Chatrier camera lens after her win.

"I think that was just a message for the people back at home to watch, and for people who are all around the world to watch," said Gauff, who had friends who were involved in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. "Hopefully it gets into the heads of people in office to hopefully change things."

Over the past year, as Gauff had her ups and downs, and young players like Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez seemed poised to pass her by, some wondered if she had been overhyped when she was 15. It's clear now she wasn't. She's turning out to be exactly the player - and more important, the person-we thought she was then. –Tennis.com

Rising star