Tennis

Tears flow, cheers follow as Naomi Osaka shows she's a class act

US teen sensation Coco Gauff's first appearance at Arthur Ashe Stadium left both her and her top-ranked opponent Naomi Osaka crying yesterday morning (Singapore time), producing one of the most touching moments in US Open history.

Defending champion Osaka captured the last eight games in a 6-3, 6-0 third-round victory that had Gauff, 15, wiping away tears, but it was what happened next that was memorable.

The Japanese star, 21, asked Gauff to join her for the on-court interview.

"I definitely was wanting to leave the court because I'm not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone," Gauff said. "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 multiple times to stay. I kept saying no. Finally I said, 'OK, I'll do it.' Because I didn't know what to do."

Wiping away tears, Gauff stayed and poured her heart out as the crowd roared with excitement at the sporting gesture by Osaka, herself in tears, to a child rival needing support at a painful moment.

Gauff added: "I'm glad the crowd was kind of helping me and her. She was crying, she won. I was crying.

"Everybody was crying. I was like, I don't know why she was crying."

Osaka said: "I saw that she was kind of tearing up a little. Then it reminded me how young she was. 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.

"Yeah, I mean, for me, it was just something that was, I don't know, instinctive I guess."

There are distinct similarities between the rise of Osaka and Gauff, both on and off the court. They both spent their early years honing their careers in the academies of Florida.

Osaka, also the reigning Australian Open champion, anticipates the pair will wage battle on the court for years to come.

"She seems very intelligent, so I think there's automatically things that she's going to change the next time that we play," said Osaka, who will meet 13th seed Belinda Bencic for a place in the quarter-finals.

In the men's draw, Nick Kyrgios lost 7-6(7/5), 7-6(7/5), 6-3 to Andrey Rublev, who will meet Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round, while Rafael Nadal will be facing Marin Cilic for a last-eight spot after defeating South Korea's Chung Hyeon 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. - AFP

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