First, the tears came from Coco Gauff, as the 15-year-old’s US Open came to an end against defending champion and world No.1 Naomi Osaka.
Then it was Osaka’s turn to cry, moments after comforting Gauff with a hug and some words of encouragement on Saturday night.
Gauff has generated all sorts of attention already by making it to the second week at Wimbledon in July and becoming the youngest woman to win two matches at Flushing Meadows since 1996.
In this much-hyped showdown under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium that ended 6-3 6-0 in Osaka’s favour, Gauff often looked exactly like what she is: an immensely talented player who is still learning her way at the top level.
She overcame a slow start to get within 4-3 in the opening set but also then dropped the last eight games.
“She told me that I did amazing and good luck and then she asked if I could do the on-court interview with her and I said no because I knew I would cry the whole time but she encouraged me to do it,” Gauff said of the top seed.
“I’m going to learn from this whole match. She’s been so sweet to me.”
Osaka, a two-time major champion, including at the Australian Open in January, hit 24 winners to Gauff’s eight.
“For me, this is the most focused I’ve been since Australia,” she said, referring to her up-and-down season since earning that trophy.
Addressing Gauff, she said: “I’m so sorry for playing you (with) this type of mentality.”
Gauff said Osaka “did amazing and I will learn a lot from this match. She is super sweet.”
— Sloane Stephens (@SloaneStephens) September 1, 2019
Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic, Osaka’s next opponent, did not have to take to the court on Saturday after her Estonian opponent Anett Kontaveit withdrew before the match due to illness.
Bencic has beaten Osaka in both of their meetings in 2019 so far.
The Swiss routed Osaka 6-3 6-1 in the fourth round at Indian Wells before pipping the Japanese star 7-5 in the third set of their Madrid quarterfinal on clay.
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