Defending champion Naomi Osaka consoled a tearful Coco Gauff after a crushing US Open victory Saturday in a showdown billed as “the future of women’s tennis”, while Rafael Nadal cruised into the last 16.
World number one Osaka overpowered 15-year-old Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in 65 minutes to keep her title defense on track before sharing a warm embrace with an opponent overwrought by the occasion in the New York spotlight.
The emotional clash was followed by tearful on-court interviews, Osaka asking Gauff to join her with the microphone as they met at the net.
“I said no because I knew I was going to cry the whole time, but she encouraged me to do it,” tearful Gauff said after Osaka talked her into it. “It was amazing, she did amazing and I am going to learn a lot from this match. She has been so sweet to me, so thank you for this.”
Osaka, fighting back her own tears, spoke to Gauff’s parents, saying: “You guys raised an amazing player. I remember I used to see you guys training. Both of us made it and we’re still working hard.”
Osaka said the match was one of her best since winning the Australian Open. “This is the most focused I’ve been since Australia,” she said, telling Gauff: “Sorry for playing you in this mentality.”
The primetime third-round clash at Arthur Ashe Stadium pitted 21-year-old Japanese star Osaka, also the reigning Australian Open champion, against the American who made a fourth-round Wimbledon run on her Grand Slam debut.
Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, called it “the future of women’s tennis”, while Novak Djokovic labelled Gauff “a new superstar of tennis.”
But Gauff, the youngest player through to the third round here since Anna Kournikova in 1996, struggled in her first match under the lights on Ashe. She dropped her opening service game on a double fault, and while she twice rallied to level, a determined Osaka broke for a third time to snatch the first set.
Andreescu breezes past Wozniacki
The top seed reeled off the final eight games in all against a despondent Gauff to sail into a fourth-round encounter with Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic, who was handed a walkover when Anett Kontaveit withdrew due to illness.
Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu, seeded 15th, brushed past two-time US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 to extend her best Grand Slam run.
The 19-year-old, a winner at Toronto and Indian Wells this season, improved to 30-4 for the year despite missing much of the clay and grass portion with a shoulder injury.
“I think everything is just clicking with me,” said Andreescu, who had never gone beyond round two at a major prior to this tournament. “I’ve been through a lot with injuries and have just taken everything I’ve learned from the past couple of years and brought it into this year.”
American qualifier Taylor Townsend continued her surprise run after reaching the last 16 for the first time at a Slam.
Townsend, ranked 116th, followed up her shock win over reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep by beating another Romanian, Sorana Cirstea, 7-5, 6-2.
Naomi Osaka (JPN x1) bt Coco Gauff (USA) 6-3, 6-0
Belinda Bencic (SUI x13) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST x21) walkover, illness
Donna Vekic (CRO x23) bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4, 6-1
Julia Goerges (GER x26) bt Kiki Bertens (NED x7) 6-2, 6-3
Taylor Townsend (USA) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 7-5, 6-2
Bianca Andreescu (CAN x15) bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x19) 6-4, 6-4
Kristie Ahn (USA) bt Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-3, 7-5
Elise Mertens (BEL x25) bt Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-3, 6-3
[Inputs from AFP]