August 31, 2019 - 6:00 pm
NEW YORK — First, the tears came from Coco Gauff, as the 15-year-old American’s U.S. Open came to an end against defending champion and No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka.
Then it was Osaka’s turn to cry, moments after comforting Gauff with a hug and some words of encouragement 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 favor, Gauff often looked exactly like what she is: an immensely talented player who is still learning her way at tennis’ top level.
She pounded serves at up to 119 mph but also double-faulted seven times.
She overcame a slow start to get within 4-3 in the opening set but also then dropped the last eight games in a row.
“She told me I did amazing,” Gauff said during an unusual on-court interview for a match’s loser, something that was Osaka’s idea, knowing the way the packed house was supporting her opponent.
“I’m going to learn from this whole match,” Gauff said. “She’s been so sweet to me.”
Osaka’s advantages in age — she’s 21 — and accomplishments — she is a two-time major champion, including at the Australian Open this 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.
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. They’re both based in Florida now and have known each other for a few years. Their fathers are friends.
“I’ve watched her play for so long,” Osaka said. “I thought I had to get going right off the bat.”