French Open: Swiatek, Gauff storm into final

Poland's Iga Swiatek returns the ball to Russia's Daria Kasatkina during their women's semifinal match on the French Open at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on Thursday. Photo: AFP/ Thomas Samson

American teenager Coco Gauff crushed Italy's Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday to become the youngest French Open finalist in 21 years and set up a showcase clash with world number one Iga Swiatek.

The 18-year-old, who was already in unknown Grand Slam territory with her first semifinal spot, will next face Polish top seed Swiatek, who cruised into Saturday's final with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Russian Daria Kasatkina to stretch her winning run to 34 matches.

"I am a little bit in shock right. I have no words to describe how I fee right now," Gauff said in an on-court interview.

"Honestly, I wasn't nervous going in today which is a surprise. The only time I get a bit nervous is in the morning. I go for a walk and that clears my head."

Earlier, Swiatek, the world number one conceded an early break, but made the most of Kasatkina's string of unforced errors, peppering court Philippe Chatrier with winners.

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff of USA plays a forehand return to Italy's Martina Trevisan during their women's singles semifinal. Photo: AFP/ Anne-Christine Poujoulat

Poland's Swiatek, the 2020 champion, has not lost since February and has matched Serena William's winning run from 2013, having now lost only two sets in her last four tournaments.

Swiatek again played with a ribbon in the colours of the Ukrainian flag pinned to her hat against her Russian opponent.

Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to compete at Roland Garros but will have to sit out Wimbledon as All England Club officials barred competitors from the two countries due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation".

Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion."Pretty special moment. Yeah, I'm really emotional. I'm so grateful to be in this place and you know, be healthy and be able to play my game. It's amazing and I love playing here," said Swiatek.

"Right after my first year there was COVID and I was not able to see how many Polish people would come. It's overwhelming. I try to treat every match the same way. When I realise this is one of the biggest matches of the season, it could stress me out."

Swiatek started with a double fault but held and broke in the second game, only for Kasatkina to break back and level for 2-2. The Russian's game, however, was riddled with unforced errors and Swiatek collected free points to steal her opponent's serve again for 4-2.

She then won eight points in a row to wrap up the opening set with a crosscourt backhand return that left Kasatkina with her feet stuck on the red dirt.

Swiatek, looking to become the fourth woman since 2000 - after Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova - to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup twice, kept her foot on the gas to take the early lead in the second set.

But Kasatkina, who had lost all their three encounters in straight sets this season, stemmed the bleeding with a hold for 1-1.It was only a brief relief for the world number 20, who was being bludgeoned by Swiatek's precise and powerful forehands. The top seed won all the remaining games, allowing a sorry Kasatkina only nine points in the second set, and finished it off with an ace.

In the second semifinals on the day, Gauff, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament and is the youngest finalist at any Grand Slam in 18 years, needed time to find her range, trading two early breaks each with Trevisan.

Once she found a way to neutralise the left-hander's punishing forehand, however, Gauff breezed through the first set by winning the last three games.

"I had to be more patient," Gauff said. "Being American I grew up hitting like this and hitting hard and I had to remind myself this is not the one to attack. I played her two years ago I and I lost against her and I know how difficult it is to play against her," she said.

The 28-year-old Trevisan, bidding to become the lowest ranked finalist in the event's history, took a medical break to strap up her right calf. But things just got worse for her as she piled up 36 errors in total with Gauff stepping in to whip her backhands deep and moving her opponent around.

She also kept attacking her serve as the Italian managed only a low 46 per cent win rate on her first delivery. Ranked 23rd in the world, Gauff broke her again in a game lasting 14 minutes to go 3-1 up and never looked back, sealing her biggest career victory on her first match point.

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