- • Joined ESPN in 2011
• Covered two Olympics, a pair of Rugby World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours
• Previously rugby editor, and became senior writer in 2018
PARIS — As she plots her 2023 French Open charge, Coco Gauff has been taking inspiration from the confidence of Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat’s improbable run to the NBA Finals.
Gauff overcame a tricky first-round matchup with Rebeka Masarova 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday and said the Heat’s resilience helped her. Miami built a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals before the Boston Celtics rallied to force a Game 7. On Monday night, the Heat crushed the Celtics 103-84 to win the series.
“Honestly, today, I told myself if Jimmy Butler didn’t freak out when they were up 3-0 and all of a sudden it’s 3-all, then I shouldn’t freak out after losing the first set,” Gauff said on court after her win.
Since the game started at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in Paris, Gauff said she did not stay up to watch the game.
“First thing I did this morning was look at the results,” Gauff said. “Very relieved. I kind of held my breath.”
Butler and Gauff have spoken before and the Heat star attended Gauff’s match at the Miami Open in March. Even before the NBA season ended, Butler was exuding confidence in the team’s ability to make the NBA Finals despite the odds being stacked against them.
“This was before [the Heat] were in the playoffs. … He offered me tickets to see the last home game of the [regular] season,” Gauff said. “Then he DM’d me a couple weeks later, asking if I wanted more tickets to see the postseason. I said, ‘I won’t be here. I’ll be in Madrid and then Rome and then France.”
“And then he said, OK, when we make the Finals, let me know if your family wants some tickets. So, this was before we were even in the playoffs. This is before we lost to the Hawks for the first play-in game. I just felt like I knew that — everybody is like we have a 3% chance of making the Finals, but when he sent me that, I knew we were making the Finals because he didn’t say, ‘if we make the Finals,’ he said, ‘when we make the Finals.'”
Gauff had not shared the interaction prior to the team reaching the Finals. It wasn’t the first time Butler made the prediction.
“But I remember screenshotting it and sending it to my family and I was, like, ‘Oh, we’re going, we’re going to the Finals.’
“He pretty much said we were going to the Finals before [Miami] even qualified for the playoffs, and I just really like that mentality of him.”
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