As Coco Gauff reached her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, beating Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 to become the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova in 2004, she left Court Philippe Chatrier with a message.
Referencing the recent mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and many others, Gauff wrote, “Peace. End Gun Violence,” on camera as she left court.
At her press conference later, Gauff said she thought only of writing on camera as she walked towards her and it was spurred on by waking up to another shooting, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday. Gun violence is particularly close to home after friends were caught up in the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida.
“I think for me it was especially important to be in Europe and to be where I know people around the world are watching for sure,” she said. “I think it’s a problem in other parts of the world, but especially in America, it’s a problem that, frankly, has been happening for a few years, but obviously now it’s getting more attention. But for me , this has been a problem for years.
She continued, “For me, it’s kinda close to home. I had friends who were on the set of Parkland. I remember watching this whole experience pretty much firsthand, seeing and having friends who went through this whole experience. Fortunately, they managed to get out of it. I just think it’s crazy, I think I was maybe 14 or 13 when it happened, and still nothing has changed.
Gauff, who turned 18 in March, has spoken about a variety of issues since joining the tour aged 15 in 2019, including talking about the climate emergency and even giving a speech at a Black Lives Matter march in 2020: “I think now particularly at 18, I really tried to educate myself about certain situations, because now I have the right to vote and I want to use it wisely.
When asked if she ever felt pressure around her not to talk about issues other than tennis, Gauff said it was the opposite, as people around her often did. encouraged to think beyond the court.
“If anything, my team and my parents are encouraging me to write this,” she said. “Since I was younger – I know I’ve said this before – that my dad told me I could change the world with my racquet. He didn’t mean that by just playing tennis. He meant speak out on issues like this. The first thing my dad said to me after I walked off the court was, “I’m proud of you and I love what you’ve written on camera.”