Naomi Osaka Beats Coco Gauff to Round of 16 in Cincinnati


After a set and serve break against Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka was in danger of making a quick debut at the West and South Open on her return to the WTA Tour.

But Osaka kept its cool, tinkered with its tactics, reduced errors and found a way to impose its power play on 17-year-old Gauff.

Cracking hits and above all decisive serves, #2 seed Osaka bounced back and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and secured a spot against Swiss Jil Teichmann in the round of 16.

It was a reaffirming victory for Osaka, which had had a bumpy season: they won their fourth Grand Slam singles title in February. Australian Open and then retreat after one round After the decision not to attend the necessary press conferences at the French Open, a discussion broke out with the tournament officials.

He skipped Wimbledon and then returned to the Olympics in Japan, the country he represented. He became the first tennis player to light an Olympic cauldron, and then lost in the third round in the women’s singles To Marketa Vondrousova, who missed the medal.

On Monday, before his opening game with Gauff, Osaka began to cry and He cut short the first press conference Nearly three months after he thoughtfully answered a question about his relationship with the news media.

But by being determined in the fight against Gauff on Wednesday, he produced a number of highlights of his own while applauding some of Gauff’s best shots.

He lost just one point on his serve in the last set and appropriately finished the win with an ace.

“I’ve had a really weird year,” Osaka said in an interview on the field. “I think some of you know what happened to me this year. I changed my mindset a lot. Even if I lost, I would feel like I was a winner. There is so much going on in the world.”

He said he’s been thinking a lot since Monday’s press conference.

“I guess I was wondering why I was so impressed, like what made me not want to do media in the first place,” he said. “Then I thought and wondered if I was scared because sometimes losing players and the headline the next day would be a ‘collapse’ or ‘they’re not that good anymore’. Then I thought, every day I wake up, I should feel like I’m winning. Going out to play, going to see the fans, having people come out and watch me play, that’s a feat in itself and I’m not sure when I started to desensitize it and it stopped being a success. for me, so I felt very ungrateful about it.”

Osaka is determined to use her stardom to bring attention to causes that matter to her. He announced that he would come before the tournament. donate prize money From the West and South Open to disaster relief in his father’s hometown of Haiti.

“I don’t really do that much,” she said on Monday. “I can do more. I’m trying to figure out what I can do and where exactly to spend my energy, but I can say that the prize money, the first thing I think I can do, will raise awareness the most.”

Osaka said the restrictions on playing during the pandemic had worn him out.

“I think this whole Covid thing was so stressful with the bubbles, not seeing and interacting with people,” he said. “But I think it’s absolutely crazy to see the state of the world, how things are in Haiti and how things are in Afghanistan right now, and for me right now in the United States to be hitting a tennis ball and have people come and watch. I don’t know, in which case I would rather be myself than anyone else in the world.”

Osaka has played relatively little tennis this season. Wednesday’s match was the first-round event since his first-round victory at the French Open in May. Although the Olympics are prestigious, they do not award ranking points and are not an official part of the tour.

But hard courts remain Osaka’s best surface. Grand Slam titles have all been won on hard floors: two at the Australian Open and two at the US Open, which kicks off August 30 in New York.

“Of course, I would really love to win this tournament for the extra motivation I give to an organization for Haiti,” he said on Monday. “But I accidentally saw my draw, so I know how hard it will be.”

Osaka had played Gauff twice before, losing 6-3, 6-0 in the third round of the 2019 US Open and losing 6-3, 6-4 in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open. On the streets of Melbourne to try to work on her feelings later.

Wednesday’s match was in long form compared to the previous two games, but was still defined by full strokes and short rallies. Their longest exchange was just 11 innings, and both players struggled with consistency in their comebacks.

“I think I come out of Tokyo and come here and play him as my first opponent, he’s really not my favorite player to play.” said Osaka. “Mentally I think playing against him is the most challenging.”

However, Osaka adjusted the comeback position on Gauff’s second serve early in the second set and took a few steps back to give himself more time to react. He paid with three service breaks, and although Osaka was blowing hot and cold, he was a more reliable player in the end.

Gauff had three double faults in nine and Gauff had 31 non-essential faults in 45. Above all, as Gauff tried to control his forehand, Osaka seemed at peace with the moment and the pressure, upping his game when he needed it most.

“Just waking up in the morning is a win,” Osaka said.


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