French Open Final: Swiatek Storms to Lead Against Gauff

Credit…Pete Kiehart for The New York Times

PARIS — Coco Gauff, 18, and Iga Swiatek, 21, have never played singles against each other at the French Open before their final scheduled for Saturday. But they did come within one point of doing so in Paris in 2018.

That was the year Gauff won the girls’ singles title at the French Open, beating her close friend and American compatriot Caty McNally in the final. McNally beat Swiatek in the semifinal, saving a match point.

“I was actually preparing to play her,” Gauff said of Swiatek. “And Caty saved a match point against her, and I ended up playing Caty in the final.”

Gauff said she does not know Swiatek well, but she has known her since they both started out on the professional tour in 2019. “I have known her since she was probably ranked lower, and now that she’s No. 1, I will say that nothing has really changed other than her tennis,” Gauff said in her news conference ahead of the final. “Behind the scenes, she’s as nice as I think you guys see in the press conferences. I think that’s really important and rare to see, so I definitely congratulate her on that aspect.”

Gauff is 0-2 against Swiatek on tour, but this will be their first singles match in a Grand Slam tournament and their first final.

“This final, I mean I want it for myself, but I think I’m really happy to play her specifically,” Gauff said. “I always wanted to play her in a final, and I knew it was going to happen eventually just from, even in juniors, the way our games were both projecting. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Swiatek has certainly become a regular in finals. This is her sixth straight final on tour as she has extended her winning streak to 34 matches. But she has been tracking Gauff’s progress as well. “For sure I’m pretty happy that she’s doing well, because I think she’s also had a huge amount of pressure in her life and being always the youngest one and the one that is supposed to be the future,” Swiatek said. “It must have been tough.”

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