COCO GAUFF called for tighter gun control in the US after revealing she had been personally affected by a horror school shooting.
The 18-year-old wrote ‘Peace — End gun violence’ on a TV camera as she reached the French Open final at Roland-Garros.
Gauff claimed a 6-3 6-1 victory over Italian Martina Trevisan to become the youngest women’s Slam finalist since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004 — and will face world No 1 Iga Swiatek for the title tomorrow.
Her decision to speak out comes in the wake of last week’s horrific scenes at an elementary school in Texas, when a lone gunman shot dead 19 kids and two teachers.
For the first time, Gauff revealed she has friends who survived a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018, when 17 people were killed by an expelled student.
Gauff said: “For me, it’s kind of close to home. I had friends that were a part of the Parkland shooting.
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“I remember watching that whole experience pretty much first-hand, seeing friends go through that whole experience. Luckily they were able to make it out of it.
“I was maybe 13 or 14 when that happened — and still nothing has changed. That was a message for the people back at home to watch and for people who are all around the world to watch.
“Hopefully it gets into the heads of people in office to change things.
“I know how many people were watching that match so maybe I have brought some global attention to what is going on in the US.”
Gauff said she has been inspired to become an athlete activist by the likes of LeBron James, Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, Colin Kaepernick and Naomi Osaka.
The Florida teenager said: “My dad has always told me I could change the world with my racket. But he didn’t mean just playing tennis. He meant speaking out on issues like this.
“The first thing my dad said to me after I got off court was, ‘I’m proud of you and I love what you wrote on the camera’.
“People always say, Oh sports and politics should stay separate. I’d say yes but at the same time I’m a human first before I’m a tennis player.
“I wouldn’t even consider gun violence politics. I think that’s just life in general. I don’t think that’s political at all.”
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Coco Gauff called for tighter gun control and the end of gun violence
Gauff was unhappy with Trevisan’s screeching throughout the match and complained to the umpire in the opening games.
The world No 23 will not be favourite for the final.
Her Polish opponent Swiatek’s 6-2 6-1 hammering of Russian Daria Kasatkina was her 34th victory in a row.
The unstoppable Pole, who won the title in 2020, says she has been listening to Led Zeppelin to get the juices flowing.
The Warsaw warrior is two, maybe three sets from reaching her own tennis Stairway to Heaven.