Breaking Records, Inspiring Hearts: Cori Gauff's Roland Garros Junior Triumph

14-year-old Cori Gauff claimed the junior Roland Garros title in 2018

by Jovica Ilic
Breaking Records, Inspiring Hearts: Cori Gauff's Roland Garros Junior Triumph

Cori Gauff came to Paris in June 2018 with high hopes. The 14-year-old American entered the junior draw as the 16th seed, playing only six ITF junior events before Roland Garros and showing her rich talent again in the French capital.

Cori missed the US Open junior title in September 2017, and there were no mistakes this time. Gauff toppled fellow American Caty McNally 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 in an hour and 57 minutes to become a Major champion at such a young age and announce her tennis journey!

Gauff entered the record books and became the fourth-youngest Roland Garros junior champion after Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and Gabriela Sabatini! Cori was the youngest champion since Hingis in 1994, working hard to achieve that in the second consecutive all-American final.

McNally led 3-0 and 5-4 in the final set before Gauff broke back at the last moment and stole the title in the tie break. Cori was the youngest player in the draw, defending the colors of her 2004 generation! That was hardly an obstacle for her, beating five rivals in straight sets and showing her spirit of a true champion when it mattered the most to lift the trophy.

Nothing could separate Cori and Caty, with almost identical first serve percentage, the number of double faults, break points and total points! It all came down to that deciding tie break where Gauff had a clear edge. Returners stole the show, with 15 breaks of serve from 25 chances!

It was a roller coaster ride from the start of the second set when Cori found her range, pushing each other to the limits until the last point. McNally was the dominant figure on the court in the opening set. She dropped seven points on serve and raced into a 4-0 lead after winning 16 of the opening 20 points!

The first set lasted just 24 minutes, and McNally completed it with a winner at the net in game seven, breaking for the third time and taking a big step toward the win. The older American grabbed another break in the second set's second game before the 14-year-old started her comeback.

14-year-old Cori Gauff claimed the junior Roland Garros title in 2018.

Cori grabbed four straight return games and clinched the set 6-3 to force a decider and improve her chances. McNally made a fresh start and claimed 12 of the opening 15 points to forge a 3-0 advantage, hoping to break the rival's resistance.

Instead, Gauff refused to surrender and lose another Major final. Cori clinched four games in a row to avoid the deficit and open a 4-3 gap with a backhand winner at the net, looking much better than 20 minutes ago. Caty made one last push on the return in game nine, breaking for a 5-4 lead and serving for the win.

It was not to be for her, though, spraying a backhand error and handing the game to Gauff, who never looked back. The younger player held at love in game 11 and wasted two match points on the return in the next one. McNally held, and a tie break had to decide the champion.

Caty sent a clear forehand long in the second point and suffered another mini-break in the next one to chase the result. A forehand winner sent Cori 5-1 up, and a great return gave her five match points. She needed only one, sealing the deal with a volley winner at the net to start a massive celebration with her team.

Four years later, Gauff entered the Roland Garros final without losing a set, just like in juniors, before Iga Swiatek left her on four games. Cori is through into the second week this year as well, seeking another good result at one of her favorite tournaments.

Cori Gauff Cori Gauff Roland Garros