Naomi Osaka overpowers, shares spotlight with Coco Gauff

US Open/Facebook The special shared moment after their match almost eclipsed the action on the court.

The future of tennis is in good hands

Naomi Osaka showed why she’s No. 1 in women’s tennis as she powered through a third-round U.S. Open match against Coco Gauff, beating her in straight sets 6-3, 6-0.

The matchup was highly anticipated, as the two tennis phenoms squared off against each other for the first time. But it became clear early on that Gauff would be light work for Osaka, who started the match strong and laser-sharp and never looked back.

The crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium Center in New York cheered loudly for 15-year-old American sensation Gauff. But nothing seemed to rattle Osaka, who, with dual Japanese-American citizenship, represented Japan. A composed and focused Osaka, 21, egged herself on with positive affirmations — “C’mon!” she’d yell after hitting a winner or ace, with one serve clocking in at 118 mph.

RELATED: Naomi Osaka has arrived, wins Australian Open and No. 1 world ranking

Prior to the match, tennis analysts assessed the strengths of each player. They cited Osaka’s firepower — particularly, her powerful serve — while noting Gauff’s quickness and ability to defend so much of the court. Both players had their moments, but Gauff began to falter halfway through the second set as she struggled on her second serve and gave way to multiple unforced errors.

Osaka may have brought her killer instinct on the court, but off-court, she was gracious and tenderhearted as she insisted on sharing her moment with the young Gauff.

Going over to her at the end of the match, Osaka seemed to suggest something to the heartbroken Gauff. As the two stood together former tennis pro-turned-commentator Pam Shriver asked Gauff what Osaka said to her.

“She encouraged me to do the on-court interview with her and I said no, because I knew I would cry the whole time,” Gauff confided to the crowd. She then thanked Osaka for allowing her to speak but said she wanted to keep it short because Osaka deserved the spotlight to herself.

When it was her time to speak, Osaka choked back tears as she addressed Gauff’s parents in the crowd and applauded them for their daughter’s amazing success. She recalled how both she and Gauff trained on the same courts in Florida. “Just the fact that we both made it is amazing and I think you all are amazing,” Osaka said to Gauff and her parents.

US Open/Facebook (l-r) Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff

The shared moment between the two stars was not lost on the TV broadcasters who marveled at the degree of sportsmanship, the likes of which is uncommon in professional sports.

Although Gauff departs, four American women — and no American men –remain in the U.S. Open: Serena Williams, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend and Kristie Ahn. All the women are African American except Ahn who is Korean.

RELATED: Cori Gauff pulls off epic comeback to continue Wimbledon run

With the inclusion of Haitian-Japanese Osaka, the face of women’s tennis suddenly seems more diverse and loaded with top young (and seasoned) talent.

Next up, Osaka will face Switzerland’s No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic in the fourth round. Go here for a tournament schedule.

About Paige Elliott

Paige Elliott is the digital editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at pelliott@spokesman-recorder.com.

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