Unseeded 15-year-old Coco Gauff said she was in disbelief after beating
reigning champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets in a major upset at the
Australian Open on Friday.
The American, the youngest player in the draw and making her
Melbourne debut this year, defeated the third seed 6-3, 6-4 to avenge a heavy
defeat at last year’s US Open.
Gauff plays compatriot and 14th seed Sofia Kenin or China’s
Zhang Shuai in the fourth round after a comprehensive victory which underlines
her rare talent.
This was the second instalment of a budding rivalry between
Gauff and Osaka that could light up tennis for the next decade, having met at
the US Open, where the 22-year-old Japanese won easily.
On that occasion it was the teenager who struggled with
nerves, but the tables were turned this time.
Even so, the scale of the achievement had not fully set in
for Gauff, the youngest woman to beat a top-five opponent since Jennifer
Capriati defeated Gabriela Sabatini at the US Open in 1991.
“On the court I was definitely, what is my life? All
these people clapping for me,” she said.
“I’m still new to this, but I’m sure I’m not used to
She was in such shock afterwards that “I don’t even
remember what I did, but I think I was more in disbelief so I didn’t really
know what to do”.
“I’m trying to think of what even happened
The sense of bewilderment took on a whole new level when
Roger Federer became one of the first people to congratulate her.
“I was, like, ‘Thank you,’ trying to be calm. Inside, I
was, like, Oh, wow!”
– Osaka rattled –
Gauff, who spent time training with Serena Williams in the
off-season, had said she would be less nervous and more aggressive this time
round in facing the world number four Osaka.
And so it proved as they rattled through the first five
games in barely 15 minutes at the 15,000-capacity Rod Laver Arena.
Osaka fired into the net to drop serve in game eight and
then racked up more unforced errors in gifting Gauff the first set in 32
“Come on!” shouted Gauff, ranked 67 but fast
making a name for herself as the most exciting prospect in women’s tennis.
The young American carried the momentum into the first game
of the second set, breaking a subdued and rattled Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam
The Japanese broke back for 1-1 when Gauff volleyed into the
net, but it was a rare mistake by the American and she broke once more, before
serving for the match at 5-4.
The nerveless teenager clinched victory on the first match
point when Osaka fired into the net.
Gauff announced herself to the sporting world at Wimbledon
last year when, as a qualifier, she stunned Venus Williams in the first round.
She did the same thing to the seven-time Grand Slam champion
on her Melbourne debut this week, then came back from a set and 3-0 down to
defeat Sorana Cirstea on Wednesday.
When Gauff and Osaka met five months ago in New York, also
in round three, then-world number one Osaka crushed the tearful and overawed
teenager 6-3, 6-0 in a little over an hour.
“I learned a lot from that US Open. Not even just
playing against Naomi, but the whole tournament,” said Gauff.
“I think I was on edge and I had the three-setters in
the first two rounds of the US Open, and I think that was just dealing with all
of the media.
“I feel like now I’m more playing, just having