Naomi Osaka moved onto the round of 16 at the U.S. Open in Queens, N.Y. last night. But what made headlines was not the 21-year-old’s dominant on-court play but rather the sweet moment she shared with her competitor, the 15-year-old fan favorite Cori “Coco” Gauff.
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In a heartfelt moment at the net following her win, Osaka, ranked No. 1 in the world, asked the younger athlete to join her for the post-match interview. Gauff agreed, speaking with ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez as tears streamed down her face.
“She did amazing, and I’m going to learn a lot from this match,” Gauff said, letting Fernandez know what Osaka told her off-mic. “She’s been so sweet to me, so thank you for this. Thank you.”
Gauff wasn’t the only one in tears. In a sweet moment, the Japanese-born, Florida-trained Osaka turned to the crowd as she searched for Gauff’s parents.
“You raised a great player,” the Nike athlete told Gauff’s mom and dad, with words catching in her throat as she became emotional. “I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us. And for me, the fact that both of us made it, and we’re both still working as hard as we can, it’s incredible. I think you guys are amazing, and Coco, I think you’re amazing.”
After qualifying for Wimbledon in July, Gauff earned international recognition when she defeated Venus Williams at the tournament. On home turf in the United States, the New Balance athlete won over the Open crowd — creating a finals-like environment that Osaka acknowledged in her post-match interview.
Osaka will square off tomorrow against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, the No. 13 seed, as she looks to nab her second Grand Slam title and repeat her 2018 U.S. Open title. As for Gauff, her U.S. Open dreams haven’t been shattered yet. Although her bid for a women’s singles title has come to an end, Gauff and partner Caty McNally are still in the women’s doubles field.
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