In a blockbuster third-round matchup and in their first career meeting, the world No. 1 and 21-year-old from Japan bested the 15-year old American 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday to advance to the round of 16.
After the match, in a move not seen often in tennis, Osaka embraced Gauff and asked the teen if she would share her interview with her on court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Gauff initially said she didn’t want to do it, because she knew she would cry.
“She encouraged me to do it,” Gauff said through tears to ESPN.
Gauff went on to say: “I’m going to learn a lot from this match. She’s been so sweet to me, so thank you for this. Thank you.”
After Gauff finished her interview, she said, “Thank you, Naomi. I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to take this moment away from her, because she really deserves it.”
Before ESPN could ask Osaka a question, she went up to Gauff and gave her another hug, which drew roars from the crowd.
Osaka then was asked what it is like to mentor someone like Gauff.
“I don’t think I’m a mentor,” Osaka said to ESPN, and then turned to Gauff’s player box, which included the teen’s parents. Both Osaka and Gauff live in Florida and have known each other for a few years.
“You guys raised an amazing player,” Osaka said through her own tears.
“I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us,” Osaka continued. “For me, like the fact that both of us made it, and we’re both still working as hard as we can, I think it’s incredible. I think you guys are amazing. I think, Coco, you’re amazing.”
Gauff became an overnight sensation in July when she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, beating the likes of Venus Williams in the process.
Osaka next will face No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who received a walkover to the fourth round when Anett Kontaveit withdrew ahead of their match due to illness.
Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a major singles title when she defeated her idol, Serena Williams, in last year’s US Open final, making her a megastar. The Japanese-Haitian, who has dual Japanese and American citizenship, won her second grand slam crown at the Australian Open in January. She is bidding to become the first woman to defend the US Open since Serena Williams won three in a row from 2012 to 2014.
This was Gauff’s first match against an opponent ranked in the top 5 in her career. She was looking to be youngest player to reach the fourth round at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996.
The youngest player in the draw, Gauff was making her US Open singles debut as a wild card. Her tournament is not yet complete, however, as she’s teaming up in women’s doubles with 17-year-old fellow American Caty McNally, who lost to Serena Williams on Wednesday.
Gauff and McNally defeated Julia Goerges and Katerina Siniakova in the first round and will face the No. 9 seeds, Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke, in the second round Sunday. The pair claimed the women’s doubles title at the Citi Open in Washington earlier in August. In 2018, Gauff and McNally won the US Open girls’ doubles title.