Coco Gauff felt world number one Naomi Osaka proved she is a true athlete with her conduct after their US Open encounter.
Defending champion Osaka needed only 65 minutes to see off 15-year-old Gauff 6-3 6-0 in Saturday’s highly anticipated contest.
Osaka silenced a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd with a ruthless performance to progress to the last 16 at Flushing Meadows.
However, she had the crowd on their feet after the match, as she persuaded a tearful Gauff to stay on the court so they could conduct a post-match interview together.
The pair were each reduced to tears as they spoke in front of a packed stadium that rose to acclaim for two players sure to be superstars of women’s tennis for a long time to come.
Gauff was effusive in her praise of Osaka afterwards, telling reporters: “I think 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. I think that’s what she did tonight.
— Taylor Townsend (@TaylorTownsend) September 1, 2019
“I definitely 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.
“She told me it’s better than crying in the shower. She convinced me, like, multiple times to stay. I kept saying no. Finally I said, Okay, I’ll do it. Because I didn’t know what to do.
“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.
“But I think she really showed sportsmanship tonight. I mean, I wasn’t expecting it. I’m glad that I was able to experience that moment. I’m glad the crowd was kind of helping me and her.
“She was crying, she won. I was crying. Everybody was crying. But I think it was a good moment for both of us.
“I’m glad that I was able to express that moment. I guess it shows that I’m human. I guess athletes in general just experience things, and we show emotion, good and bad.
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
“I think a lot of people see the more pumping up side of me, the more fiery side. I guess that side is good for other people to see.
“I’m glad I was able to experience that on the biggest stage. Maybe next time I’ll have a different result. I really thank Naomi for that because it was a good moment for me.”
Gauff expects the experience of a heavy defeat to be beneficial as she plots a route to reaching the same heights as two-time grand slam champion Osaka.
“I think I’ll learn a lot from this match. She’s the number one player in the world right now, so I know what I need to do to get to that level,” Gauff added.
“She was really attacking the ball well. She hit a lot of winners today. I didn’t hit as many as I can. I think that I can trust my strokes more.
“I think she trusts her strokes a lot, so that’s why she hits winners. In order to hit a winner, you have to trust that you’re going to do it. I think I can work on that more.
“Other than that, I mean, I think my first serve, I could get it in more today. I was having trouble holding serve. I think once I get past that hump, I’ll start to improve a lot more.”