Tennis-'Fighter' Gauff using Roe v. Wade decision as fuel at Wimbledon

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 28, 2022 Coco Gauff of the U.S. in action during her first round match against Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse REUTERS/Matthew Childs

LONDON (Reuters) - Coco Gauff may still be just a teenager but the American is tuned in to real world issues and is using the anger from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end a woman's constitutional right to an abortion to fuel her drive at Wimbledon.

Gauff is no longer the wide-eyed 15-year-old who made her Wimbledon debut three years ago. She is not only physically stronger now but much wiser, as shown by her insightful post-match interviews in her run to this year's French Open final.

Now 12th in the women's rankings, she is acutely aware of her ability to harness the spotlight and use it to highlight off-court issues that strike a chord, like the Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

"I play for myself but also at the same time I know there's countless people watching me. I know I'm pretty active off the court regarding issues like that," the 18-year-old said, describing the decision as "unfair".

"It definitely does fuel me and motivates me to do even better... People were saying, 'You need to shut up and focus on tennis, blah, blah, blah.'

"Yeah, I like to win just to put that in their faces."

Gauff, who dropped the opening set in her first-round win over Elena-Gabriela Ruse, next plays another Romanian - Mihaela Buzarnescu - and said she is acutely aware of not letting her emotions get the better of her when the chips are down.

"When I'm down in those moments, and I was definitely fighting some inner demons in that match, I think that's what inspires me," Gauff said.

"I want the crowd to know that I'm a fighter. I want the opponent and the opponents that are watching me to know that I'm a fighter."

Meanwhile, Rafa Nadal seems to have put his chronic foot injury issues behind him but is still cautious after playing on grass for the first time in three years, saying "every victory helps" ahead of his second round match with Ricardas Berankis.

"(I must) be humble enough to accept the challenge, accept that the situation will not be perfect for the moment," he said.

"But with the things I have, I need to find a way to keep going. Because every day that I am able to survive there are much bigger chances that I start playing at much higher level."

Local favourite Emma Raducanu may be out but there are several Britons left in the draw, with Katie Boulter looking to use the energy of the Centre Court crowd in her match against sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, 111 higher in the rankings.

"I feel like everyone's pushing themselves, almost just spurring each other on with the little bit of magic that's going on in British tennis right now," Boulter said.

"I feel like I'm catching a little bit of it and I hope that I can push other people with that."

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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