Coco Gauff believes she was destined to meet Iga Swiatek in the French Open final – although maybe not so early in her career.
Gauff, 18, is through to her first grand slam final where she will take on world number one Swiatek on Saturday.
The pair know each other through their time in the junior ranks, and almost met in the Roland Garros girls’ final four years ago.
Gauff, who won that title, explained: “I was actually preparing to play her in the final, and then she had a match point against my usual doubles partner, Caty McNally.
“Caty saved a match point against her and I ended up playing Caty in the final.
“I’m really happy to play her specifically because I always wanted to play her in a final, and I knew it was going to happen eventually, even in juniors, just from the way our games were both projecting. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.”
An eye-catching final has mercifully emerged from the wreckage of a women’s tournament which saw nine of the top 10 seeds eliminated before the end of the first week.
Swiatek is the clear favourite; the 20-year-old Pole is on a 34-match winning streak and is already a course and distance winner here, having claimed the title in 2020.
Gauff, it seems, has a free swing as she bids to become the youngest American grand slam champion since her idol, Serena Williams, won the US Open in 1999.
Having burst on to the scene aged 15 at Wimbledon three years ago, when she beat Venus Williams on her way to reaching the fourth round, Gauff believes she is ready to win a major title and insists it would not change her.
“I think that version (of me) was ready to win a slam, but I think she almost wanted it too much, that she put way too much pressure on herself,” Gauff added.
“Now I’m definitely ready to win one but I’m not putting pressure on myself to win one. I think there’s a fine line between believing in yourself and almost pushing yourself too much.
“If I do lift the trophy, honestly, I don’t think my life is going to change really.
🙌 #RolandGarros final for the second time on my journey. Grateful to be here and this time with fans on stands.
🙌 Finał Rolanda Garrosa, po raz drugi w mojej karierze. Jestem bardzo wdzięczna, że mogę tu być. Na dodatek tym razem ze wsparciem kibiców na trybunach. pic.twitter.com/i99FM9gaQI
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) June 2, 2022
“I mean, I know it sounds kind of bad to say that, but the people who love me are still going to love me regardless if I lift the trophy or not.”
Swiatek has won the last eight finals she has appeared in, including five this year in the run-up to Roland Garros.
“I’m just trying to treat these matches as any other matches because it is stressful and I accept that,” the world number one said. “But I want to keep doing the same work.
“I’m also aware sometimes my opponents are stressed so I’m trying to kind of realise that and not panic about my own stress.
“Just kind of treating it as any other match and remembering why I got here and what my strengths are is really helping me.
“So I think it’s all about the mindset and the preparation I have before the match.”