Coco Gauff wept in her courtside chair, cried on the trophy podium and sobbed again in the press room as the US teenager admitted her French Open final defeat Saturday was a “lot to handle”. Gauff, 18, and the youngest finalist at a major since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004, was swept off court by world number one Iga Swiatek 6-1, 6-3 in just 68 minutes. After a tournament which had seen her celebrate her high school graduation and then win widespread praise for an impassioned plea to end gun violence in the United States, defeat to the Pole was a bitter end.
“The tears just come,” she said. “I try really hard not to cry on the court, and I knew whether I won or lost. I feel happy really and sad, I don’t know how to handle it.
“I hate myself for crying. After the match, my little brother was crying and I felt so bad, because I was trying to just tell him, ‘It’s just a tennis match’. I’m like, ‘Why are you crying?’ I’m like, ‘I’m crying too, I know. Everybody’s crying’. My physio was crying, and I was like, Jeez.”
Gauff had reached the final without dropping a set but Swiatek was rarely troubled once she stretched out to a 4-0 lead inside 20 minutes in the first set.
The first set was over in 32 minutes and although Gauff saw a glimmer of hope when she broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set, it only fired up Swiatek even more.
Despite the defeat, the American took as much comfort from completing her education — which she marked with a series of photographs of her in back cap and gown in front of the Eiffel Tower — as she did finishing runner-up on Saturday.
“Seeing how much attention those graduation photos I got from just other people, Michelle Obama reposted that, and for me I think it reminded me that people are proud of me outside of tennis,” Gauff said.
“I think that moment really changed my perspective going into the tournament, the fact that so many people were happy and proud of me.
“I got almost pretty much the same amount of text messages when I finished that to today or yesterday when I made the final. Finishing school made me realise that I’m more than a tennis player, and that was really something that I was struggling with.”
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