NEW YORK — Coco Gauff‘s first U.S. Open in the main draw proved arguably as memorable as her Wimbledon run last month. It ended Saturday, when defending champion Naomi Osaka served her out 6-3, 6-0 in the third round.
Then Osaka, 21, approached Gauff, 15, and urged the youngest woman in the tournament to share the on-court victor’s interview.
“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka, who was memorably in tears after beating Serena Williams in last year’s final, when boos for the chair umpire rained down, told Gauff. “Let these people know how you feel.”
Gauff at first declined.
“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from her, as well.”
Gauff played her first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium and did so against the No. 1 woman in the world. She struggled with unforced errors (three times the number of her winners) and double faults (seven), while Osaka played up to her title and ranking.
Gauff ended her first Grand Slam season (in singles) having become the youngest woman to make the Wimbledon fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991 and the youngest to make the U.S. Open third round since Anna Kournikova in 1996.
“I’ll learn a lot from this match,” she said. “She’s the No. 1 player in the world right now, so I know what I need to do to get to that level.
“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 tonight.”
Osaka advanced to play No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in Monday’s fourth round. If she makes it back to the final, she would do so without having to play a top-12 seed. But, so far, she co-authored the moment of the tournament.
“I kind of thought of it when I shook her hand,” at the net, Osaka said. “She was a little bit teary-eyed. Then I was thinking to myself, [what] the people don’t see is we go into the locker room and just cry. … She’s had an incredible week, so I thought just to make a positive statement out of it.”
Four Americans are among the last 16 — Serena Williams, seeking a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, No. 10 Madison Keys, qualifier Taylor Townsend and wild card Kristie Ahn.
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