15-year-old Gauff was overwhelmed with emotion following her defeat on Saturday night.
Without hesitating, the world no. 1 went to console her young opponent and told her it was alright to cry, in fact, it was better to do it there on the court, rather than alone in the locker room. It was something she had learnt from experience.
Osaka then invited Gauff to join her in the post-match interview, something not widely seen in tennis. Gauff was hesitant, but Osaka encouraged her to seize the moment.
“She told me that I did amazing and good luck and then she asked if I could do the on-court interview with her and I said no because I knew I was going to cry the whole time, but she encouraged me to do it,” said Gauff during the emotional interview.
“I’m going to learn a lot from this match. She’s been so sweet to me, so thank you for this. Thank you, thank you, Naomi. I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to take this moment away from her, because she really deserves it.”
Wow. What a moment.
This is what it’s all about. https://t.co/Ae1vAgnDSV
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 1, 2019
Osaka, the reigning US Open champion, was all class as she consoled her young opponent.
“When I shook her hand, I saw that she was kind of tearing up a little. Then it reminded me how young she was,” Naomi said. “I was just thinking, like, it would be nice for her to address the people that came and watched her play. They were cheering for her.”
“I wanted her to have her head high, not walk off the court sad. I want her to be aware that she’s accomplished so much and she’s still so young.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) September 1, 2019
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) September 1, 2019
The heart-warming moment was met with applause from the crowd and the praise continued on social media.
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
— James Blake (@JRBlake) September 1, 2019
During a press conference later the same evening, Gauff praised Osaka for how she handled the emotional moments after the match.
“I think she really showed sportsmanship tonight,” Gauff said. “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.
“After the match, 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.”
You call it ‘sportsmanship’. I call it ‘feminism’. An incredible moment between two outstanding women showing extraordinary empathy that had in tears. https://t.co/pjaVP2JIE6
— Anne Summers (@SummersAnne) September 1, 2019