The wisest teenager in tennis: Coco Gauff at the French Open – Sport

Coco Gauff stood in the scorching sun that shone down on Court Suzanne-Lenglen this Saturday afternoon as she spoke about Mirra Andreyeva. She had just won the third round duel with the 16-year-old opponent from Russia 6: 7 (5), 6: 1, 6: 1. Now, with a microphone placed in front of her, former pro Alex Corretja of Spain asked what it was like playing against this talent. “She’s super young and has a great future ahead of her,” said Gauff in an analytical tone. She recalled playing in Paris for the first time at the age of 16 and expressed her sympathy for Andreyeva.

Corretja wanted to know how Gauff had prepared for this opponent she had never faced. Then Gauff smiled and explained: Until a year or two ago, she was also in this role of meeting new players on the pitch. In addition, she trained with Andreeva at this French Open. “I was impressed by their level,” she said. She sounded empathetic and found the right words. Incidentally, Gauff is not 26 or 32 years old. She’s still 19. She’s quite simply the wisest teenager in women’s tennis.

Gauff, who received the “Wunderkind” label herself at the age of 15 and won her first of three WTA titles in Linz in 2019, has truly achieved something impressive: the American from Delray Beach, Florida, was literally thrown into the tennis cosmos as a child because the Achievements came so quickly. And yet it has remained straight and undisguised. Gauff’s parents, father Corey and mother Candy, are known to be sensible people. The former basketball player and former track and field athlete gave her values.

Above all, she has backbone. She didn’t shy away from bitter defeats like a year ago in Paris when she reached the final but was playfully humiliated by Pole Iga Swiatek. Her mature appearance does not end at the gates of the tennis court. She often finds the right tone. For example, when another tragic shooting spree happened in the US during the French Open in 2022, she wrote on a TV camera pane as she left the pitch after a match: “Peace. End gun violence.” She later urged that the US must change.

A dominant player surprisingly withdraws in Paris

Gauff is currently number six in the world rankings, and it is still unclear whether she will ever come as close to a Grand Slam cup as she did last year. It is difficult to get past the powerful Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus and Swiatek, who causes constant stress in opponents. Elena Rybakina, who was born in Moscow and competes for Kazakhstan, is the third dominant player belonging to this trio. This time, however, the 23-year-old surprisingly withdrew on Saturday morning before her third round match against the Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo: she had caught an infection and looked distressed at a short press conference. But even if Gauff only contests a first, second, third round, you know that she always has something to say – the press conference room is correspondingly well attended when she is announced.

Recently, for example, she sat in front of the world press and casually told, as if she were talking about a walk along the Seine, that she was just about to transition into a different phase of life. Twelve months have passed again, she would love to tackle this tournament inexperienced – “but I don’t feel that’s realistic because I’m a different person than last year”.

Gauff answered a question about not enough women’s matches in the night session

She now has to find a way, she explained, of reconciling her job “with the version of me now”. Gauff sounded thoughtful, reflected when she described how she approached this maturing process: “It happens through trial and error.” The city of Paris plays an important role in this, because “for some reason,” she continued philosophizing, she keeps learning new things about herself here. She knows one thing right now: “I think I’m just about to grow up.”

On Saturday, too, she voiced interesting thoughts again. Many reporters at the French Open often criticized the fact that women’s matches are almost never scheduled in the night session. Gauff replied: She and other colleagues she knew didn’t want to play on the mostly uncomfortable evening. That, of course, was a wonderful punch line.

With a protective instinct for the younger colleague: “I won’t sit here and scold her for it”

A reporter of New York Times raised the question of whether one reports too much about old age, whereupon Gauff gave a 1a keynote speech – with pros and cons on this tricky topic. And yes, too often the bottom line is that age is emphasized, at least in her case. It should be more about how well someone plays tennis, she thinks, regardless of the years of life someone has. But typical Gauff: She was able to understand that reporters must also include this aspect in their reports, if it is relevant.

However, the American expressed a protective wish because Mirra Andreyeva was on the verge of disqualification when she angrily threw a ball into the crowd in the tie-break of the first set and hit a spectator. Even later she seemed a bit defiant and quickly offended, although she showed great punches at times. Only: She’s still a girl, born in 2007. “Well, I won’t sit here and scold her for it,” said Gauff, looking around, “I hope you don’t do that either.” That’s Cori Gauff: she’s always somehow on the right side.

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