PARIS -- Coco Gauff could not hide her tears after coming up short in her first major final, but she has a proven track record as a fast learner. On Saturday, she fell to World No.1 Iga Swiatek 6-1, 6-3 at Roland Garros, but Gauff is already eyeing the next installment of her budding rivalry with the 21-year-old Polish star.
"I feel like throughout my career, and even in juniors, the reason I had success so early is that I was able to see that level and then go back and practice and try to reach that level," Gauff told reporters after the match.
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"Now that I have seen the level, this level of No.1 and 35 matches [won in a row], I know that what I have to do. I'm sure I'm going to play her in another final and hopefully it's a different result."
Gauff burst on the scene as a 15-year-old qualifier at 2019 Wimbledon, where she defeated Venus Williams in her major debut and became the youngest woman ever to advance to the second week of a Slam. The pressure and expectations for a follow up have been a challenge to handle, but Gauff's run to her first major final in Paris went a long way to silence the doubters.
"I definitely feel like this helped my confidence a lot," Gauff said. "I just think even when I was 15, 16, 17, I felt like so much pressure to make a final.
"Now that I made it, I feel like a relief a little bit."
Gauff learned a lot about herself during the Parisian fortnight and she will take the experience of forging new ground at a Slam with her into Wimbledon. In the past, Gauff succumbed to the pressure brought on by wanting to win for others. In Paris, the recent high school graduate finally learned to win for herself. It made all the difference.
"I guess the journey to get here, I realized the key to making the final was not something with my game or something that I needed to fix," Gauff said. "It was more with my mentality and how I entered the matches. I think that's what I think the difference between me dreaming it and reality, I realized that, yes, it's hard to get here, but also, it's not like some master puzzle that you need to solve. You just kind of have to get your mind in the right place.
"I think over the years watching other players get to the semis and you see that sometimes they kind of freak out, or in the final and they kind of freak out. A lot of times I feel like they think it's something wrong with their game or this shot isn't working. Really, it's not.
these past two weeks have been filled with so many emotions and i am so grateful for this moment. thank you to everyone for all of the support.— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) June 4, 2022
grand slam finalist….
i’ll bounce back.
ps: tournament is not quite over for me yet… doubles final tomorrow allezzzz pic.twitter.com/3cGCVh19Sa
Gauff said she was actually surprised by how she handled the occasion of her first major final. It was a moment she had dreamed about. But ultimately, it wasn't the moment that overwhelmed her. It was the World No.1.
"In the match it probably looked like I was freaking out, but really it was just Iga was too good," Gauff said. "I wasn't freaking out. So I think the moment, I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be."
Gauff leaves Roland Garros with a new career-high ranking of No.13. There is no-one younger than her in the Top 150. The fact is, no one is doing what Coco Gauff is doing on the tennis court. And now, having broken new ground in Paris, she's more ready than ever to win a major title.
"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," Gauff said. "I'm like, 'Why are you crying?' I'm like, 'I'm crying too, I know.' Everybody's crying. I think for them to see me so upset, I think that's what hurt them the most.
"Tomorrow, or even tonight, we're going to play cards again and we are going to laugh and we are going to be fine."