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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Gauff Wins French Open Girls Title over McNally in Third Set Tiebreaker; McNally Claims Girls Doubles Title; Tseng Captures Boys Title in Paris

The girls championship match between 14-year-old Coco Gauff and 16-year-old Caty McNally at Roland Garros today was one of those contests where momentum switched back and forth so many times that just as you were about to declare one player in control, the other disrupted the narrative.  So it was fitting that the match ended in a third-set tiebreaker, with Gauff putting an exclamation point on an impressive comeback with a 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(1) victory.

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Coco Gauff
Although McNally was new to the setting of a junior slam singles final, she began the match with no sign of nerves, making few errors, hitting the ball deep and constructing points well.  Gauff, who reached the final of the US Open junior championships last September as a 13-year-old, was not on her game, with too many unforced errors to put any pressure on McNally.

The second set began as the first had, with McNally going up 2-0, but Gauff began her comeback there, breaking McNally for 2-1.  Two long games in the middle of the set, with the server losing both and double faults playing a major role, made it 4-3 for Gauff, but she stepped up in the eighth game, holding for a 5-3 lead and broke to even the match at a set apiece.  Gauff's unforced errors went down, and McNally wasn't able to maintain the court positioning that had allowed her to dictate most of the points in the first set.

But in the third set, McNally was able to take advantage of shaky serving by Gauff, going up 3-0, two breaks. But as quickly as Gauff lost the first three games, she won the next four, with McNally throwing in several double faults to assist Gauff.  McNally finally held to make it 4-4 and had a 15-40 lead with Gauff serving, but Gauff saved those two break points, only to double fault to give McNally a third.  A long rally, with McNally, who had not used the tactic previously, moonballing several shots, ended when Gauff lost patience and made an error, leaving McNally to serve for the match.

Down 15-40 in that game, with her forehand sailing wide on two separate points, McNally saved one break point, but missed a backhand long to lose the game.

Gauff held at love, putting the pressure back on McNally, who had to save two match points, the second on a deft backhand lob winner to get herself in the tiebreaker.

McNally was no stranger to that high pressure situation, having won her second round match against Lulu Sun of Switzerland 6-7(3), 6-1, 7-6(4), but it was Gauff who handled it better today.  Up 3-0, Gauff lost her one point in the tiebreaker on a double fault, but McNally hit a backhand wide to make it 4-1 and went up 5-1 with a scorching forehand winner.  McNally tried a serve and volley after the changeover, but a perfect return right at McNally's feet make it 6-1 and Gauff closed out the championship at the net, picking off passing shots until she could finish with a volley.

Gauff is the fifth youngest to claim the French girls title and she's in good company, with Martina Hingis (at ages 12 and 13), Jennifer Capriati and Gabriela Sabatini.  Gauff, who mostly trains in Delray Beach Florida with Gerard Loglo, is also a regular at the Mouratoglou Academy in France.

McNally couldn't afford to dwell on her loss, with another opportunity to claim a junior slam title that afternoon. Playing with Iga Swiatek of Poland, McNally will leave Paris with a winner's trophy after the unseeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Yuki Naito and Naho Sato of Japan 6-2, 7-5. There were no breaks of serve in the second set until the final game, although Naito and Sato saved a match point on a deciding point serving at 4-5. Serving at 5-6, they weren't able to repeat that result, with McNally and Swiatek taking it and the title.  McNally was playing in her third junior slam girls double final, having lost in both the 2016 and 2017 finals at Wimbledon.

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Chun Hsin Tseng
Like Gauff, the boys champion also turned the tables on a recent junior slam disappointment.  Sixteen-year-old Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, who lost in the final of the Australian Open to Sebastian Korda in January, defeated Sebastian Baez of Argentina 7-6(5), 6-2. Tseng, the No. 4 seed, trailed the top seed 3-1 in the first set, but got the break back and held serve throughout the rest of the match to earn the title.

Tseng was not able to get the sweep, and, as with the girls, an unseeded team claimed the boys doubles title.  Ondrej Styler of the Czech Republic and Naoki Tajima of Japan defeated No. 5 seeds Tseng and Ray Ho, also of Taiwan,  6-4, 6-4 in the championship match.  Like the girls final, the boys final also ended on a deciding point, with Styler and Tajima holding serve to win the championship.

For more coverage of today's junior singles finals, see the Roland Garros website, the ITF website and the WTA website and Tennis Underworld (girls only).

And congratulations to 2008 Roland Garros girls champion Simona Halep, who accomplished the rare junior/women's double by taking the women's title today 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 over Sloane Stephens. The 26-year-old Romanian had a much longer string of slam final disappointments than the two junior champions, but she kept giving herself a chance and was able to break through today.