We Love to See It: Naomi Osaka and CoCo Gauff display unity in victory and defeat
EEW Magazine Sports News // Associated Press
Naomi Osaka looked across the net after ending Coco Gauff’s U.S. Open in the third round Saturday night and saw the tears welling in the 15-year-old’s eyes.
Seeing a bit of herself in the kid she’d just beaten 6-3, 6-0, Osaka, the tournament’s defending champion and No. 1 seed, who is only 21 herself, comforted Gauff with a hug and words of consolation, then encouraged her to address the 23,000 or so folks in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands who were pulling for the young American.
It was a beautiful picture of unity between the two superior athletes that made an indelible mark on fans.
Knowing how tough it is to lose, Osaka told Gauff, “You need to let those people know how you feel.”
So Gauff obliged — a rare instance of a match’s loser addressing the crowd from the court—and was appreciative of Osaka’s gesture.
“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,” Gauff said later at her news conference. “I think that’s what she did tonight.”
It’s that sort of maturity off the court, and a wise-beyond-her-years game on it, that has helped Gauff generate all sorts of attention already. She was the youngest woman since 1996 to win two matches at Flushing Meadows, her follow-up to a captivating run to the second week at Wimbledon in July.
Don’t forget: The U.S. Open was only the second Slam for Gauff, who was ranked No. 313 at the start of Wimbledon and is now No. 140. When it ended, after merely 65 minutes, Gauff began to bawl on the sideline. Osaka approached her and they spoke, briefly, then Osaka later cried, too, while addressing Gauff’s parents on-court.
“For me, it’s crazy to me to see how far she’s come in such a little amount of time,” said Osaka, who was born in Japan and moved to the U.S. when she was 3.
Both players are based in Florida now and have known each other for a few years. Their fathers are friends.
“She was crying; she won. I was crying. Everybody was crying,” Gauff said. “I was like, ‘You won the match!’”
Gauff acknowledged feeling some jitters at the outset, and Osaka produced the match’s initial seven winners.
It took all of 10 minutes for Osaka to lead 3-0.
When Gauff did claim a game, she did so with a couple of exclamation points in the form of aces at 105 mph, then that one at 119 mph. Osaka slumped her shoulders. The crowd roared. It seemed, fleetingly, that this might be a competitive match.
“Next time I play her,” Gauff said, “I’m going to try to come up with a different plan.”
Soon enough, Osaka was edging ahead — and then pulling away, showing the same poise and power that carried her to the championship a year ago in a memorably chaotic final against Serena Williams that ended with spectators booing and both women in tears after the 23-time major champion got into a lengthy dispute with the chair umpire.
Gauff’s dad said afterward that his daughter might not appear on tour again until next year, because of age restrictions on the women’s tour that limit how many tournaments someone who is 15 may enter.