Coco Gauff

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Coco Gauff’s U.S. Open run ended by Naomi Osaka

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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.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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Coco wins again at U.S. Open, setting up showdown with Osaka

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NEW YORK (AP) — Coco Gauff is still not quite used to hearing her name shouted by thousands of U.S. Open spectators reveling in each booming serve, each “How did she do that?” shot and each victory by a 15-year-old American who is the youngest woman in the U.S. Open’s third round since 1996.

Imagine what things might be like for what comes next: a showdown against No. 1 seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday.

“For me,” Gauff said, “it’s still wild.”

Proving her captivating run to Week 2 at Wimbledon was no fluke, Gauff improved to 5-1 in her nascent, two-tournament Grand Slam career by edging Timea Babos of Hungary 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at a rollicking Louis Armstrong Stadium on Thursday night.

“This is just the beginning, I promise,” Gauff told the appreciative crowd that serenaded her with “Let’s go, Coco!” at the final changeover.

When play resumed, Gauff broke Babos’ serve to end a second consecutive three-set win.

“I was thinking, like, maybe they feel like I’m Golden State in Game 7 or something. It’s different, because you’re an individual player, so it’s weird, I guess. Most of the time you hear the chants, it’s for a whole team, not just for, like, me,” she said. “So it was pretty cool.”

Not since Anna Kournikova did it 23 years ago had someone who was 15 made it this far at Flushing Meadows.

Gauff covered the court so well, tracking down shot after shot from Babos, running so fast and so fearlessly that she ended up face-down on court after falling.

She pounded serves at up to 118 mph, recording nine aces, and mixed in drop shots, passing winners and all manner of other magic to great effect.

“A 15-year-old girl with power on the serve like this — I wish I had that when I was younger,” said Babos, a 26-year-old ranked 112th in singles and seeded No. 1 in doubles in New York. “If she continues like this, it’s definitely a very bright future.”

Naomi Osaka wins in front of Kobe, Colin Kaepernick; Coco Gauff next

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NEW YORK — For Naomi Osaka, having Kobe Bryant and Colin Kaepernick in her U.S. Open player box put the last year into perspective. Her next opponent, 15-year-old American Coco Gauff, causes Osaka to be introspective, too.

“You know, like, last year compared to this year there is no way, like, Kobe would sit in my box,” Osaka said after sweeping Poland’s Magda Linette 6-2, 6-4 in the second round Thursday. “Yeah, Kaepernick, too. It’s just crazy who you run into in life.”

Osaka, a 21-year-old who represents Japan, came into last year’s U.S. Open having never made a major quarterfinal. She left with the title after beating Serena Williams in a final that proved controversial for Williams but clutch for Osaka. She then won the Australian Open and became the first Asian player to be ranked No. 1.

Spring and summer struggles followed, but she still has the No. 1 next to her name at this event. And now some very famous friends.

“I know Kobe,” she said of Bryant, who has served a mentor role. “This is actually the first time I have ever met Colin, and it wasn’t even through me. … It’s really cool, but honestly, I just wanted to finish as fast as possible because I didn’t want them to stay in the sun too long.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Something else happened to Osaka after Thursday’s match that might have seemed unfathomable in the first week last year: a girl cried after getting a hug from her.

“I’d rather people don’t cry,” Osaka said. “It kind of makes me emotional, too. Yeah, I mean, it’s really crazy for me. I know, like, everyone said that the past year has been, like, insane. I think it’s moments like that that sort of make me realize it.”

Gauff, who made a magnetic run to the Wimbledon fourth round, was pushed to three sets in each of her first two matches this week. That included winning her U.S. Open night session debut over Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 on Thursday.

She and Osaka play each other for the first time in Saturday’s third round. But they are already familiar, having practiced together when Osaka was a teen. Their dads are friends, too.

“I don’t have any thoughts on it right now because I have to play doubles tomorrow,” Gauff said, noting her first-round doubles match with 17-year-old Caty McNally, with whom she won the 2018 U.S. Open junior doubles title. “I don’t even know what today is.”

Osaka saw a bit of herself in Gauff when she came across the American keeping to herself in the locker room.

“Off the court she seems like me,” Osaka said. “Well, she seems a little bit more, like, she knows what she’s doing.

“I would love for her to come out of her shell a little bit. I just realize that’s probably what people say about me, too.”

At Wimbledon, Gauff became the youngest woman to reach the second week since Jennifer Capriati in 1991. At the U.S. Open, she is the youngest woman to reach the third round since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

Also Thursday, the first women’s top-10 seeds bowed out: No. 4 Simona Halep, No. 6 Petra Kvitova and No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka.

Halep, the Wimbledon champion, staved off match points, then squandered one before American Taylor Townsend ousted her 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4). Townsend, a former junior No. 1, made the third round of a Slam for the second time overall and the first time since the 2014 French Open. She had to qualify into the U.S. Open and notched her first win over a top-10 player in 11 career tries.

Rafael Nadal joined Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the third round after Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrew before their match with a shoulder injury.

MORE: Serena Williams has terse reply to question about chair umpire

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