When the 2019 US Open is shelved into the history books, one signature moment will stand out above the others. Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, the post-match exchange witnessed around the sports world.
Authentic, raw, and genuine are words that describe the events that would unfold after their third-round match. The draw reads that Osaka, 21, conquered Gauff, the 15-year-old sensation, 6-3 6-0.
But when the young American was visibly emotional following her crushing defeat, Osaka went over and consoled her. She invited Gauff to participate in the post-match interview with ESPN. It was a display of sportsmanship and grace that transcends and elevates the meaning of sport.
Where two tennis players could abandon their individual desires to comfort each other, providing insight into the mental and physical strain of playing this sport.
Osaka, Gauff Share Similar Paths to Tennis Fame
Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff are not only linked by their mutual respect for one another. But their roots are similar, dating back to training at the same Academy in Florida.
Both moved to Florida from their respective birthplaces with the hope of a better opportunity at pursuing professional tennis. They grew up watching what Venus and Serena Williams accomplished at a young age, reshaping the brand and conversation around women’s tennis.
On Saturday night, the two-time Grand Slam champion and rookie sensation were sharing the spotlight on Arthur Ashe Stadium, tennis’ grandest stage. A feat they will not take for granted, given their humble beginnings.
“For me, it’s crazy to me to see how far we’ve 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.
Osaka took the tennis world by storm last year when she won the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, followed by the US Open. The meteoric rise continued at this year’s Australian Open, winning her second consecutive Grand Slam and capturing the number one ranking.
Coco Gauff’s popularity and fame exploded at Wimbledon when she made it to the third round as a qualifier. At 15 years old, no amphitheater seems too daunting for the youthful American sensation.
“Gauff Mania” spread across Flushing Meadows at the US Open, with fans eager to get an autograph or snap a selfie with the rising star. Along with Osaka, Gauff brings a fighting spirit that makes the Next-Gen of women’s tennis players a joy to watch and support.
Osaka and Gauff’s Post-Match Moment Transcends Sport
The luck ran out for Coco Gauff Saturday night, going up against the powerful, all-rounded game of Osaka. An underwhelming performance, coupled with the weight of expectations, paved the way for Gauff’s emotions to be released freely.
In tennis, the post-match rituals have never changed. A simple shake of the hand with your opponent, the chair umpire, a wave to the crowd, walk off the court. Repeat.
In the case of Osaka and Gauff, it was a chance for the 21-year-old World No. 1 to provide a moment of comfort and wisdom to the rookie. In a moment of exemplary sportsmanship, Osaka allowed Gauff to address the supportive New York crowd. Offering the rare chance for the loser of an early-round match to be on an equal platform as the winner.
“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. “I think that’s what she did tonight.”
Osaka and Gauff Will Continue to Lift Women’s Tennis
Time will tell where in history Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff are placed. But perhaps what these two female inspirations will be most remembered for is their moment of off-court sportsmanship and respect. In sport, we are often obsessed with the outcome of a particular game or match.
Naomi Osaka consoling Coco Gauff provided us with humility and class from two athletes that will inspire through their positive character. For generations to come.
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