Day Four (Thursday) at the U.S. Open in NYC was another glimpse into the future of women’s tennis.
Defending champion and world #1 Naomi Osaka had a straight sets victory in front of friends Kobe Bryant and Colin Kaepernick. 6-2, 6-4 over Magada Linette to advance to the third round.
15-year-old American sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff, won a thrilling three set match against Timea Babos 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to the third round as well, where she will play Osaka.
And in the most stunning upset of the women’s draw, thus far, twenty-three year old Taylor Townsend defeated the #4 ranked player in the world and 2019 Wimbledon champion, Simona Halep.
Townsend served and volleyed her way to a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 win and a place in the third round of a major for the first time in her career.
This was extra special for Townsend, who at one time was, the “next great hope” of American women’s tennis. Much the same way, Osaka and Gauff are now.
She battled through confidence issues, poor form and some of the things that can derail a promising young career.
Following the match Townsend was emotional in her on-court interview saying:
“This means a lot. It’s been a long journey.”
For so long, tennis has been a predominantly white sport, and while the numbers still lean heavily in that direction, more and more people of color are participating and we are seeing them excel at the highest levels.
For their parts, each of these women, albeit in different ways, understand the pressure and what it’s like to be dubbed as the “next” or quite literally the heir apparent to the greatest player of all time, Serena Williams.
They all seem to understand the macro and what that means to the sport and what they represent.
But they also have a keen sense of the micro and what a special moment, time and opportunity this is.
Following her match win, Gauff said:
“I saw Taylor won today. I think we're all just kind of pushing each other. Obviously when we play against each other, we don't want the other person to win. But literally when we're playing someone else, we root for each other. We grew up together and train together all the time.”
Osaka weighed in, before she knew Gauff would be her opponent, saying:
“Yeah, she's super sweet and I would love to play her, of course. For me, when I hear people talking about someone, I want to have the opportunity to play them just to assess it for myself. You know what I mean? So, yeah, definitely would love that...”
“I think, like, that's the beauty of this sport, that you can watch people from such a young age kind of develop as people and players. For me, like, you know, I've just evolved. Like I said, I've always been this person. I think for some years I was lost, lost in a sea of a lot of stuff. But it's nice to be able to come up to the surface and float, eventually swim.”
Here’s to the future of women’s tennis. They are young, Black, and excellent.