French Open: Swiatek predicts 'special rivalry' with Gauff ahead of Roland Garros final

By Sports Desk June 03, 2022

Iga Swiatek says she hopes to form a "special rivalry" with Coco Gauff as the pair prepare to meet in the French Open final.

World number one Swiatek extended her sensational winning run to 34 with a straight-sets semi-final victory over Daria Kasatkina on Thursday at Roland Garros.

The Pole is the first player to reach six or more finals on the WTA Tour in the first six months of the year since Serena Williams in 2013 (seven), but next faces the in-form Gauff.

Teenage star Gauff breezed past Martina Trevisan in the last four, winning in straight sets, as she became just the sixth American player in the Open era to reach the showpiece in Paris without dropping a set.

That made the 18-year-old the third-youngest grand slam finalist this century, the youngest American female French Open finalist since Monica Seles in 1991 and the youngest overall since Kim Clijsters in 2001.

The pair have long been familiar with each other, though, having featured on the junior circuit. Swiatek won the girl's event at Wimbledon just four years ago, shortly after Gauff's junior Roland Garros success.

And Swiatek cannot wait to develop a rivalry in senior tennis with the world number 23.

"I like watching Coco Gauff – my opponent in the Roland Garros final on Saturday – and maybe this will become a special rivalry for years to come," she wrote on BBC Sport.

"I feel like she's been on tour longer than me and she's only 18. Coco has great potential and I hope she will keep improving. I think this tournament has shown she is on the right path.

"I remember Coco winning the French Open juniors in 2018 when I really wanted to win. I didn't play against her, though, because I lost to Caty McNally in the semi-finals.

"But when Coco won – she was only 14 – I was like 'great, I worked so hard and a girl three years younger than me is winning junior Grand Slams'!

"It was tough for teenage me to take but I've progressed well since.

"When I got to meet her more on the WTA Tour, I could see she was staying on a really good level and she deserves her success.

"We don't talk to each other loads when we're at tournaments, just because we're both kind of shy! It is pretty hard for introverted people to bond but I really like her.

"I feel she is really humble and focused on the job. It seems like she is having fun and has good people around her."

Victory for Gauff would make her the seventh player to win the girls' and women's singles titles in Paris, but Swiatek knows it is not just the American she will have to contend with in the future.

US Open winner Emma Raducanu was another challenger cited by Swiatek, who also expects 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez to prove stern competition in the coming years.

"Rivalries are one of the most fun things about sport and there have been some great ones in the history of tennis," Swiatek continued.

"On Tuesday night we all saw Rafael Nadal play Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros and that is one of the greatest ever rivalries.

"It is amazing how many matches Rafa and Novak have played against each other and how many they have played in the deep stages of the tournaments.

"Many of their meetings have been in semi-finals or finals, it shows that the competition between them drives them to higher levels.

"It would be nice to have a rivalry, one that would push me to excel, to be more intense and that will challenge me to play my best tennis. I could imagine that.

"I wouldn't want to have a record like Maria Sharapova did against Serena Williams, she won two of their 20 matches. Of course it sometimes happens and numbers aren't always the most important.

"The goal is to enjoy tennis matches but, of course, also to win.

"I've never thought about who exactly I would like to develop a special rivalry with. It is hard to predict who will stay at the top of the WTA Tour and be consistent.

"As well as Coco and maybe Emma Raducanu, I think Leylah Fernandez has the ability to potentially challenge for the Grand Slam trophies.

"Leylah has already made two great runs – the quarter-finals here this year and the 2021 US Open final – and if she continues to play that well at more tournaments I think she will be near the top of the rankings."

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