Naomi Osaka looked across the net after ending Coco Gauff's U.S. Open in the third round Saturday night and saw the tears welling in the 15-year-old's eyes.
Osaka also saw a bit of herself in the kid she’d just beaten 6-3, 6-0.
So the tournament’s defending champion and No. 1 seed, who is only 21 herself, comforted Gauff with a hug and words of consolation, then encouraged her to address the 23,000 or so folks in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands who were pulling for the young American. Knowing how tough it is to lose, Osaka told her: “You need to let those people know how you feel.”
So Gauff obliged — a rare instance of a match’s loser addressing the crowd from the court. And was appreciative of Osaka’s gesture.
“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,” Gauff said later at her news conference. “I think that’s what she did tonight.”
Osaka’s advantages in age and accomplishments — she is a two-time major champion, including at the Australian Open in January — played a role. So, too, did her on-target power, which resulted in a 24-8 edge in winners.
“For me, this is the most focused I’ve been since Australia,” said Osaka, who’s had an up-and-down season since earning that trophy and is wearing a black sleeve on the left knee that’s been problematic lately.
Addressing Gauff, she said: “I’m so sorry for playing you (with) this type of mentality.”
When it ended, after merely 65 minutes, Gauff began to bawl on the sideline. Osaka approached her and they spoke, briefly, then later cried, too, while addressing Gauff’s parents on-court.
“For me, it’s crazy to me to see how far she’s come in such a little amount of time,” said Osaka, who was born in Japan and moved to the U.S. when she was 3.
Both players are based in Florida now and have known each other for a few years. Their fathers are friends.
“She was crying; she won. I was crying. Everybody was crying,” Gauff said.
Next for Osaka is a match Monday against 13th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland with a quarterfinal berth at stake.
Gael Monfils is taking his dazzling shotmaking into the fourth round of the U.S. Open after outlasting Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3.
Monfils, the No. 13 seed, matched the 33rd-ranked Canadian shot for shot in a contest that was all about big shots, high risks and high rewards.
Taylor Townsend keeps coming to the next and keeps winning, beating Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-2 to advance to the U.S. Open round of 16 for the first time.
Townsend, an American qualifier ranked No. 116, advanced further than she’s ever gone before in a Grand Slam by doing what she does best: serve and volleying, chipping and charging, and coming forward. She came to the net 75 times, winning 47 of those points against the 106th-ranked Cirstea.
Rafael Nadal had no trouble downing qualifier Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the U.S. Open round of 16, the 13th straight time he’s gone at least that far in a Grand Slam event.
The No. 2-seeded Nadal has had a relatively easy journey at Flushing Meadows so far, receiving a walkover in the second round from Thanasi Kokkinakis due to an injury and not dropping a set in his other two matches. Against the 170th-ranked Chung, a 2018 Australian Open semifinalist who has battled injuries, Nadal played an aggressive game off the ground and on the serve, winning nearly 90 percent of his first-serve points.
Next up for the three-time U.S. Open champion is a matchup against the winner of the match underway between No. 14 John Isner and No. 22 Marin Cilic, himself a former Flushing Meadows champ.
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