Defending champion Naomi Osaka consoled a tearful Coco Gauff after a crushing US Open victory Saturday in a showdown billed as “the future of women’s tennis” while Rafael Nadal cruised into the last 16.
World number one Osaka overpowered 15-year-old Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in 65 minutes to keep her title defense on track before sharing a warm embrace with an opponent overwhelmed by the occasion in the New York spotlight.
After the match, in a move not seen often in tennis, Osaka embraced Gauff and asked the teen if she would share her interview with her on court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Gauff initially said she didn’t want to do it, because she knew she would cry.
“She encouraged me to do it,” Gauff said through tears. “I’m going to learn a lot from this match. She’s been so sweet to me, so thank you for this.”
After Gauff finished her interview, she said: “Thank you, Naomi. I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to take this moment away from her, because she really deserves it.”
Before Osaka could be asked a question, she went up to Gauff and gave her another hug, which drew roars from the crowd. When asked what it was like to mentor someone like Gauff, Osaka said: ”I don’t think I’m a mentor.
She then turned to Gauff’s player box, which included the teen’s parents. Both Osaka and Gauff live in Florida and have known each other for a few years.”You guys raised an amazing player,” Osaka said through her own tears.
”I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us. For me, like the fact that both of us made it, and we’re both still working as hard as we can, I think it’s incredible. I think you guys are amazing. I think, Coco, you’re amazing.
In her post-match press conference with reporters, Gauff said: ”After the match, I think she just proved that she’s a true athlete. For me the definition of an athlete is someone who on the court treats you like your worst enemy but off the court can be your best friend. I think that’s what she did.”
”She told me it’s better than crying in the shower,” Gauff continued. “She convinced me multiple times to stay. I kept saying no. Finally I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ Because I didn’t know what to do. I’m happy that she kind of convinced me to do it because, I mean, I’m not used to crying in front of everyone.”
Osaka said her decision to ask Gauff to do the interview with her was instinctive.
“It was kind of instinctive because when I shook her hand, I saw that she was tearing up a little. It reminded me how young she was,” Osaka said. “I wanted her to have her head high, not walk off the court sad. I want her to, like, be aware that she’s accomplished so much and she’s still so young.”
Later on Sunday, Roger Federer advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Belgian 15th seed David Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.
“I thought it was very nice to see camaraderie at the highest level in sports. They both have a bright future ahead of them. I’m sure they’ll have a great rivalry,” Federer remarked on the moment between Osaka and Gauff