Tennis

Tennis: Naomi Osaka Showed Coco Gauff How to Act Like a True Champion

Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff

Teenager Coco Gauff is a young, rising star on the women’s tennis scene. Naomi Osaka is also young but a few years older, and she has more experience in professional competition than Gauff.

Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, who are both going to be big parts of the sport’s future, played each other at the U.S. Open, and the end of the match brought about a tender moment between the two that should serve as an inspiration for athletes around the world, especially young people.

Naomi Osaka

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At just 21 years old, Osaka already has two Grand Slam titles on her ledger, having won the U.S. Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019. Overall, she has three career singles titles on the WTA Tour and is the world No. 1.

The Japan native won her first WTA match in 2014 at the age of 16. Two years later, she made her first final and qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw at the Australian Open. She beat No. 6 Angelique Kerber at the 2017 U.S. Open, for her first top-10 victory.

A year later, she secured her first major title when she beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final — the second time in 2018 that she won a match against Williams. She earned her first top-10 ranking after that. She started 2019 off with a bang by beating Petra Kvitova in the final to win the Australian Open. The title vaulted to her the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career.

Cori “Coco” Gauff

Gauff is a 15-year-old Florida native who was the world No. 1 in the junior ranks before turning pro in 2018. Her professional career started in May 2018 on the ITF women’s circuit. She won her first professional match and later got a wildcard spot into qualifying for that year’s U.S. Open, but she failed to make it into the main tournament when she lost her first match.

She did, however, make it to the second round in the mixed doubles event at that Grand Slam. She competed in three of this year’s four Grand Slams, missing just the Australian Open.

It was this year’s Wimbledon where Gauff had her breakthrough performance. She defeated Venus Williams — one of her tennis idols — in her first-round match and won two more matches before eventually falling to seventh-seed, and eventual tournament winner, Simona Halep in the fourth round. Gauff received a wild card spot into the U.S. Open, where she faced Osaka in the third round.

Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff’s U.S. Open match and aftermath

Osaka beat Gauff in straight sets (6-3, 6-0) at the U.S. Open and, sensing the disappointment in her young opponent, did what she could to lessen the blow of the loss.

After the post-match handshake, Osaka urged the teen to stay on the court for an interview. Gauff was hesitant, thinking she would cry if she did it, but Osaka assured her that letting out her emotions in front of an appreciative crowd would be better for her than crying alone in the shower.

Gauff took Osaka’s advice and did the interview with ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez, with the crowd cheering her. During Osaka’s interview, she discussed seeing Gauff training at the same facilities she uses in Florida, and how they played each other for the first time at a major event. During the interview, she said she thinks it is “incredible” that they both made it, and she even addressed Gauff directly, saying “Coco, you’re amazing.”

Gauff later acknowledged Osaka’s gesture, calling her “a true athlete” for playing tough on the court, but treating Gauff like a best friend after the match. It’s great to see sportsmanship and caring make it’s way to the highest levels of a sport.