[Editor's Note: On Saturday, Cori Gauff won the French Open girls' title with a 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 victory over fellow American Caty McNally.]
PARIS—On Thurday afternoon inside Court Philippe Chatrier, two young Americans, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, traded baseline missiles in a bid to become the first U.S. woman other than Serena Williams to reach a French Open final since 2001. Together, Keys and Stephens have made it clearer than ever that the long-awaited future of American women’s tennis has finally become the present.
But if you walked over to the other, quieter side of the Roland Garros grounds on Thursday, and took a seat in the small set of bleachers next to Court 16, you could see a potential new future taking shape. That’s where Florida’s Cori “Coco” Gauff, the 16th seed in the girls’ draw, was taking on No. 6 seed Eleonora Molinaro of Luxembourg. The missiles they were trading back and forth looked every bit as swift as those that were flying in Chatrier.
Everything about this future, frankly, had a familiar look to it. At the end of one row of bleachers sat Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach. Three years ago, Mouratoglou watched Gauff play and liked what he saw; since then, his foundation has contributed to Gauff’s development, and she has trained regularly at his academy, with a special focus on improving the clay-court game she was showing off today.
But while Serena’s coach was in the stands, Gauff herself put one in mind of another member of the Williams family. With her long body—Gauff, who turned 14 in March, is already 5’9”—and very long arms, splay-footed walk, and no-nonsense demeanor, she had the look of a young Venus Williams.