Cry now. It’s better than crying in the shower.
That, in essence, is what Naomi Osaka told 15-year-old Coco Gauff after putting an abrupt end to her magical run at the U.S. Open Saturday night.
Osaka, the No. 1 player in the world and defending champion, showed little mercy in beating Gauff, 6-3, 6-0, in the third round.
Afterward she comforted the crying teenager at the net and encouraged her to share her postgame interview.
“I’m going to learn a lot from this whole match,” Gauff told a packed and cheering crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. “She has been so sweet to me.”
The match could be the first of many between the two young players. It was labeled as a showcase of the future of women’s tennis by no less than Serena Williams, who has been its present for nearly two decades.
Gauff was looking to make it to the round of 16 in her second consecutive major after doing so in Wimbledon.
Osaka and her high-octane game were a big step up from the level of competition she had faced so far in her young career and that clearly showed.
Gauff struggled with an inconsistent serve throughout the match, serving 119 miles an hour but double-faulting seven times. As her frustration grew, it seemed Gauff just could not deal with the emotional weight of the situation and she lost the last eight games of the match.
“For me, this is the most focused I’ve been since Australia,” Osaka said, referring to her second Grand Slam win at the Australian Open in January.
There was some thought going into the match that Osaka was the player who had everything to lose.
Only a year ago, Osaka, 21, was being touted as the future of women’s tennis after beating Serena Williams, her hero, in a controversial U.S. Open final that left both players in tears.
Osaka, who is Japanese but grew up in New York, entered last year’s tournament as the No. 19 player with a handful of endorsements. After beating Williams and then following it up with a win in the Australian Open in January, Osaka became the No. 2 paid female athlete in the world according to Forbes, behind only Serena Williams.
Gauff, however, became the darling of the tennis world this summer after, as a qualifier, she beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon. She made it all the way to the fourth round of the tournament, before losing to eventual winner Simona Halep in straight sets.
Gauff was issued a wild card in order to play at the U.S. Open and was featured on the cover of Teen Vogue Magazine shortly before the U.S. Open.
It didn’t take long for Coco-mania to seize Flushing Meadows, especially after gritty three set victory over Timea Babos in the second round.
On Thursday, fans packed the grand stand to cheer her on in her doubles victory with partner Catie McNally. The two will play again on Sunday.
Yet, not everyone was cheering for Gauff in Saturday night. John McEnroe said on ESPN that he thought it would be bad for the game if Gauff won.
“Too much to early,” McEnroe said.
Gauff said she learned a lot in the match and her run in the open this year. She also credited the way Osaka handled things.
“I think she just proved that she’s a true athlete,” Gauff said. “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.”