Saturday’s (August 31) third round U.S. Open match between Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka reinforced two things: one, Osaka is the best player in the world this year, and two, these two will be running women’s tennis for decades to come.
But the real winners of yesterday’s anticipated match were Black girls everywhere.
On the court, Osaka, 21, continued her quest to defend her Open title yesterday, defeating Gauff 6-3, 6-0. The match became the most anticipated yet in Flushing Meadows this year after Osaka defeated Magda Linette and Gauff beat Timea Bados is the second round on Thursday.
Perhaps better than the match itself were the post game interviews. It started with an emotional embrace in center court between the two players, with Gauff being the first to speak in front of attendees about what went down. Let’s just say there were not too many dry eyes in the audience.
"I was wanting to leave the court because I'm not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone. I didn't want to take that moment away from her, as well," said Gauff, competing in only her second Grand Slam singles main draw.
"She told me it's better than crying in the shower. She convinced me multiple times to stay. I kept saying no. Finally I said, OK, I'll do it. Because I didn't know what to do,” she continued. "I'm happy that she kind of convinced me to do it because, I mean, I'm not used to crying in front of everyone."
The 15-year-old sensation then hugged Osaka as the cameras turned to third round champion for her post-game interview.
"I don't think I'm a mentor," Osaka said to ESPN before looking at Gauff's player box, which included the teen's parents. "You guys raised an amazing player," she said through tears.
"I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us," Osaka continued. "For me, like, the fact that both of us made it, and we're both still working as hard as we can, I think it's incredible. I think you guys are amazing. I think, Coco, you're amazing."
The interview and match had social media also teary-eyed but ecstatic that the future of tennis is in very good hands. See what they had to say below.
Congratulations to @Naomi_Osaka_, who showed greatness on and off the court. @CocoGauff now knows what she needs to do to get to No. 1. How fortunate we all are to have witnessed the dawning of a new era in women’s tennis. #USOpen— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 1, 2019
when you understand it’s bigger than winning the game @Naomi_Osaka_ 👑🙏🏾❤️— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) September 1, 2019
Amazing moment of grace, respect, humility, and dignity between both Osaka and Gauff there after the match.— Touré (@Toure) September 1, 2019
The present and future of women's tennis are in fine hands— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 1, 2019
Serena Williams is still in contention at the 2019 U.S. Open. On Saturday, she defeated Karolína Muchová 6-3, 6-2 and is slated to face off against Petra Martić in the round of 16 this afternoon at 2 p.m. EST.
Williams was also in attendance at the much-anticipated face-off between Osaka and Gauff. Courtside, the six-time Open champion watched the match she had previously described as the “future of women’s tennis.”
“I definitely think it’s the future of women’s tennis. I’m really excited to just be a fan-girl and kind of watch,” the 37-year old said Friday during a post-game interview.
Williams and Osaka have a brief yet memorable history of facing off in the U.S. Open as Naomi’s victory in last year’s final was marred by controversy over claims Serena received coaching toward the end of the match. Her berating of official Carlos Ramos had many labeling Williams as “over emotional,” which sparked many more to refute that notion, considering men, perhaps most famously John McEnroe, have a long history of yelling at referees during matches with little to no consequences.
The situation was detailed in a Harper's Bazaar feature penned by Serena Williams in which she hoped that what happened at the end of last year’s Open didn’t take the spotlight away from the first-time champion Osaka.
“I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another Black female athlete,” Williams said via a text message to Osaka, which was published in the magazine. “I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan!”
Williams, Gauff and Osaka aren’t the only Black female tennis players participating in this year’s U.S. Open. Taylor Townsend and Madison Keys both qualified for the Grand Slam tournament and moved on to the Round of 16 with Townsend taking on Canada’s Bianca Andreescu tomorrow and Keys facing off against Ukraine's Elina Svitolina tonight at 7 p.m. EST.
Regardless or who wins or loses during this year’s open, the Williams sisters’ legacy is in good hands.
Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images