PARIS, France - Prodigious American Cori 'Coco' Gauff took the next step in her fledging tennis career by winning her first career junior Grand Slam title at the French Open over compatriot Caty McNally, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(1).
Gauff first made waves at last summer's US Open, when she reached the girls' singles final at just 13 years of age to become the youngest-ever finalist at her home major, but fell 6-0, 6-2 to another American in Amanda Anisimova.
She went one better on Saturday afternoon in Paris.
"I'm very excited and happy, because this is my first time and this is my first main draw at Roland Garros. It's really exciting to be playing here," the 14-year-old Gauff said.
"It was a tough fight, but at the end it was worth it. I remember being nervous at US Open where I couldn't really play, so I tried not to let myself get there here, even though I was nervous. I just told myself to keep fighting."
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) June 9, 2018
The No.16 seed needed to fight all the way, in fact, as she rallied from a 24-minute blitz from the 16-year-old McNally in the opener, and from 3-0 down in the deciding set to win the title in one hour and 57 minutes.
She was unable to serve out the match in the 10th game of the final set, and later saw two match points pass her by in the 12th game on the McNally serve, but regrouped to dominate the final tiebreak.
"I give it to Caty. She always fights. That's why I think she's such a great player. I knew that she was going to probably save a couple match points, because she did it in the semifinals and she'll do it again," Gauff said.
"I just kept telling myself to stay calm, and I can do this. The night before my cousin texted me, and she said, 'No matter what happens, just say calm, and just remember that you can win.' I just kept thinking about that."
The 14-year-old is the youngest winner of the junior title in Paris since Martina Hingis' second win in 1994, and the fifth-youngest winner all-time.
USA's Cori Gauff is the 5th youngest winner of the Roland Garros girls' title:
1 - Hingis, 12 yrs 8 months (1993)
2 - Capriati, 13 yrs 2 months (1989)
3 - Hingis, 13 yrs 8 months (1994)
4 - Sabatini, 14 yrs 0 months (1984)
5 - Gauff, 14 yrs 2 months (2018)#RG18 pic.twitter.com/NzUWj3tiQ1
— ITF (@ITF_Tennis) June 9, 2018
Gauff's victory ensures that five of the last seven junior girls' Grand Slam singles titles have been won by Americans, dating back to the 2016 US Open.
"I think it's really great, because we are all cheering for each other. You know, we always want to keep the championship home," she said. "It's really nice to see all of my friends doing good and doing well in tournaments."
McNally did not come away from Paris without a championship trophy, however, as she and Poland's Iga Swiatek won the girls' doubles title over Japan's Yuki Naito and Naho Sato, 6-2, 7-5.