Mon, Dec 9, 2019

NEW YORK — The reigning US Open champion and World No. 1 player Naomi Osaka knocked out 15-year-old, American wild card Cori “Coco” Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the third round at the US Open. 

In her first US Open singles appearance, Gauff couldn’t maximize on opportunities and was overpowered by Osaka, who notched her 10th straight victory in Queens.

In the first set, it was Osaka who took full control of the match, quickly winning the first three games. Gauff managed to hang on, fighting back to get within 4-3, but ultimately couldn’t close out. In the first set, Osaka notched three aces to Gauff’s two, and the reigning champ finished with 15 winners to Gauff’s four.

Now, Gauff had won from a set and a break down before, in her three-set first round win over Anastasia Potapova. In fact, each of her US Open victories this year were three-setters. But Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion at 21-years-old, forced Gauff into rushed shots, resulting in errors, particularly on her forehand.

Osaka cruised to a 6-0 second set, to seal her spot in the round of 16. Gauff’s best chance at getting herself back in the match came in the fifth game, with Gauff serving at 4-0 in the second set. Gauff was a point away (40-30) from closing out a game. Gauff hit a ball long to bring it to deuce, then followed that up with a backhand winner inside the line to come within a point of winning the game again. A double fault — her seventh of the match — pushed it back to deuce, and then a forehand winner from Osaka brought the advantage to her side. Osaka caught the break and Gauff lost the game when she hit a forehand hit into the net.

Although it was their first time playing each other on the professional circuit, Osaka and Gauff both have known each other for a few years, with both players residing and training in Florida.

When the match concluded, Gauff was ready to tearfully walk off the court and wave goodbye to the Arthur Ashe crowd. But, Osaka went over to comfort Gauff, sharing a hug and some words of encouragement.

Osaka asked Gauff to join her for the post-match interview, and what followed was a truly, heartwarming moment for the future of women’s tennis.

“After the match, I think she [Osaka] just proved that she’s a true athlete,” Gauff said after the loss. “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.”

Gauff was the youngest player to reach the third round of the US Open since 1996. Gauff became an overnight sensation with her straight sets upset of Venus Williams at this year’s Wimbledon. Gauff’s incredible Wimbledon run came to an end when she lost to the eventual champion Simona Halep in the round of 16.

Despite the straight sets loss, the teenage wunderkind’s time at the US Open isn’t over just yet. Gauff will continue playing in the Open’s doubles tournament. She’s partnered with fellow American teenager, Caty McNally. McNally took a set off Serena Williams in her second round defeat on Wednesday.

Gauff and McNally will face the No. 9 seeds, Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke, in the second round Sunday. Last year, Gauff and McNally took home the US Open girls’ doubles title.

Osaka meanwhile, who beat Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 in last year’s US Open final will continue to defend her title crown on Monday. Osaka advances to the fourth round, where she’ll face the 13th seed, Belinda Bencic, who advanced on a walkover when Anett Kontaveit withdrew due to illness.

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