2022 French Open final: Swiatek, Gauff talk tough 

-Ikenna Okafor

“I knew it was going to happen eventually just from, even in juniors that it was going to happen, just from the way our games were both projecting. 

“I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Both Gauff and Swiatek are prodigious young talents; Gauff is just 18, while Swiatek turned 21 during this tournament. Neither competed regularly on the WTA Tour until as recently as 2019.

Their clash marks the second-youngest Grand Slam final since 2000, and will be their third career meeting, with Swiatek winning on clay in Rome last year, and in Miami a few months ago, both in straight sets.

And it will finally happen at Roland Garros, after they came within a point of meeting in the junior final of 2018.

Gauff went on to win that title, aged just 14, before Swiatek collected the Wimbledon girls’ title a few weeks later.

That made Gauff the youngest junior Grand Slam winner since the great Martina Hingis in 1994, and when she began making an impact at senior-level Grand Slams the following year, “Coco-mania” commenced.

“For sure I’m pretty happy that she’s doing well, because I think she’s also had huge amount of pressure in her life, and being always like the youngest one and the one that is supposed to be the future, it must have been tough,” Swiatek said of Gauff, the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon 2004.

“When I see her, I tend to forget that she’s 18. She’s playing really consistent. You can see her progressing, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

The right mindset has proved crucial for Swiatek, too – but for different reasons.

She has shouldered enormous expectations of favouritism and success, the pressure to maintain her unbeaten run, and the perception that any result short of a title would be considered an opportunity disappointingly blown.

“It was extremely difficult, and it didn’t work at the beginning,” said Swiatek of those expectations, both external and internal.

“I feel like my game is getting more and more solid. I can really loosen up when I’m getting advantage and when I’m having a break, so that’s great. I feel like I’m playing better every match,” Swiatek said.

“It seemed kind of obvious for me that the streak may come to an end soon. So I just wanted to take it really step by step. I didn’t have any exact goals on this tournament. 

“Just seeing how my game is developing every match, it’s something that’s giving me a lot of hope, and I’m just proud of myself.”

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