When Coco Gauff faced off against 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia during the third round of the 2023 French Open on Saturday, it marked the first time Gauff, 19, played a Grand Slam singles match against a player younger than herself.
Gauff, the runner-up at last year’s French Open, lost the first set to Andreeva, but rallied back in the next two sets, ultimately winning the match 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 6-1 to advance to the fourth round, where she’ll face Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
But while much of the media ahead of the match focused on age, that topic wasn’t on Gauff’s mind when she stepped onto the court.
“I was just thinking about playing the opponent,” she said. “To be honest, you don’t really think about (age) as an athlete.”
Asked after if she thinks the media focuses too much on that topic, Gauff smiled.
“I’m gonna be honest: Yes. … Age is important to mention sometimes but, as a player and going through it, yes, it gets a little bit annoying. Because I feel like I’m the type of person, I don’t need to be praised because of my age or anything. I prefer just to be praised because of my game, not because of things I’m doing at whatever age.”
Gauff added that she was baffled the other day when she saw a stat about how she had the most bagels (sets that end 6-0) of any teenager on tour.
“I feel like some of these stats, I don’t know, y’all be finding the smallest details,” she said. “I’m like who keeps track of this stuff?”
Even if Gauff doesn’t put much stock in age, she knows experience plays a role. She credits her years on the tour with helping her learn to control her body language, especially in moments of frustration.
“I didn’t realize how much my body language showed until I started watching the film of me,” Gauff explained. “I’m like, yeah, if I was the other side looking at me, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, this girl is down.'”
At moments during Saturday’s match, Andreeva appeared clearly frustrated, smashing a racket during the first set and later hitting a ball into the crowd. Asked by a reporter about her opponent’s “teenage behavior,” Gauff pushed back.
“It’s just being an athlete and being frustrated, to be honest. People do it at all ages, so I’m not gonna blame it on her age,” she said, noting that smashing a racquets is normal for athletes.
“I mean, you shouldn’t do it, but, you know, it’s part of growing up and part of life. So I’m not gonna sit here and berate her for it. I hope you guys don’t either.”