In front of a packed stadium in San Jose Thursday night, Coco Gauff defeated Naomi Osaka 6-4 6-4 to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. In a nail-biter second set that had fans cheering and gasping, Osaka saved seven match points before succumbing to Gauff on the eighth.
Gauff did not let the missed opportunities undermine her confidence. She was prepared for Osaka to keep fighting regardless of the score. She told press later, that “certain players, no matter what the score is, you know it’s gonna be tough and I feel like Naomi is one of those players for me.” Comparing it to playing Venus Williams, she added there was a sense that, “no matter who lead I had that the match could be taken away from me any moment.” The two have played three times before, and Gauff knew what to expect, “I know that’s where she’s gonna get me, in those baseline rallies and I think today I really held my ground and was winning a lot more of those rallies than she was.”
Gauff could feel that the crowd respected both players as much more than athletes. She said, “our competitiveness is going to be something that will last for a long time and I think people really enjoy it because we do have a lot of respect for each other on, and off the court.” Osaka felt the love from the crowd as well, saying, “I honestly thought the match was very fun. It’s been a while since I played a night match with like such a high energy crowd.”
While she did not get the result she wanted, Osaka is leaving San Jose with her head held high. In her press conference, she said, “I lost the match today but I really feel confident with who I am. I feel like the pressure, it doesn’t beat me, like I am the pressure. I’m really happy with that.”
Osaka will head to Toronto to continue the US Open Series. Gauff booked a quarterfinal berth against Paula Badosa.