Naomi Osaka will continue defending her U.S. Open title in New York City after ousting 15-year-old Coco Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in their third-round match Saturday evening at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 21-year-old world No. 1 looked strong from the jump with exceptional timing and poise. After Osaka raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, Gauff settled in and won her first game with her fastest serve yet at 119 miles per hour. From there, the two traded breaks with Gauff cutting the lead to 4-3 before Osaka put her away.
The second set was all Osaka:
Gauff struggled with seven double-faults opposed to one by Osaka, who excelled in winners 24-8. Gauff was visibly frustrated throughout the second set. She finished the match with 24 unforced errors.
On the court afterward, Osaka comforted Gauff:
According to Sports Illustrated's Jenna West, no woman making her debut at a tournament in the Open era has ever beaten an opponent who is both the No. 1 seed and defending champion. There had been 67 previous failed attempts.
By topping Timea Babos in the second round, however, Gauff became the youngest woman to make it to the third round at Flushing Meadows since Anna Kournikova did so in 1996.
The fourth round is the furthest she has made it in a Grand Slam tournament, as she was the youngest competitor to make it that far at Wimbledon since 1991 earlier this summer. She did so by upsetting Venus Williams before losing to eventual tournament champion Simona Halep.
Gauff is now 0-2 against top-10 opponents. She will continue to compete in the U.S. Open in doubles. She and 17-year-old Caty McNally are scheduled to play No. 9-ranked duo Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke on Sunday.
Regardless of Saturday night's outcome—Gauff and Osaka's first professional meeting, though the two come from the same training area in Florida and have known each other for years—Serena Williams tapped both young stars as the future of the sport.
"Coco is obviously much, much younger than Naomi, if you could say that, because Naomi is incredibly young," Williams said, according to the New York Daily News' Jane McManus. "But it's shocking to say that Coco is about six years younger. I definitely think it's the future of women's tennis."
Williams advanced to the fourth round with a straight-sets win (6-3, 6-2) over Karolina Muchova on Friday, which keeps a possible rematch with Osaka alive after their controversial U.S. Open final last year.
Osaka said on the ESPN broadcast that she felt "the most focused I've been since Australia." The Japanese-born player last won a tournament at the Australian Open in January.
Osaka will face No. 13 Belinda Bencic in the fourth round Monday.