PARIS (AFP) – Coco Gauff says she has “nothing to lose” in today’s French Open final against world number one Iga Swiatek, with her opponent on a 34-match winning streak and looking for a second Roland Garros title.
Teenage star Gauff is the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon 18 years ago and only graduated from high school while in Paris.
The 18-year-old has yet to drop a set in the tournament and showed little signs of nerves in her first major semi-final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Martina Trevisan.
But she is the underdog against Poland’s Swiatek, who will equal Venus Williams’ record for the longest women’s unbeaten run in the 21st Century if she lifts the trophy.
“I think going in I have nothing to lose and she’s definitely the favourite going into the match on paper,” said American Gauff, who burst onto the scene by making the Wimbledon fourth round as a 15-year-old in 2019.
“I’m just going to play free and play my best tennis. I think in a Grand Slam final anything can happen.
“If I do lift the trophy, honestly, I don’t think my life is going to change really. I know it sounds kind of bad to say that, but the people who love me are still going to love me regardless if I lift the trophy or not.”
Swiatek, who herself only turned 21 on Tuesday, has enjoyed a remarkable season and is looking for a sixth successive title.
The 2020 French Open champion’s 6-2, 6-1 semi-final thrashing of Daria Kasatkina saw her draw level with Serena Williams’ career-best winning streak from 2013.
“It’s going to be tough (for her opponent),” said Russian Kasatkina after seeing her run comprehensively ended by the top seed.
“I think the mental part is going to, especially at the beginning, make a big difference.
“It’s difficult when the player is moving good and then she can transition to attack mode. Then it makes it really, really tough.”
Four of Swiatek’s five tournament victories this year have come at the prestigious WTA 1,000 events, but she says she still has to battle nerves before big matches.
“I couldn’t get rid of the expectations fully (in the semi-finals), but I tried to accept that, that they are going to be there and it’s going to stress me a little bit more,” said Swiatek.
Gauff wrote “peace, end gun violence” on a courtside TV camera after her semi-final victory and has said she wants to speak out about issues off the court.