SAN JOSE — Coco Gauff was giving her on-court interview after beating Naomi Osaka in straight sets and referred to Osaka and herself as “the future” of tennis.
Gauff then paused and reassessed: “Actually, I don’t know — the future is probably already here.”
It sure felt “here” in San Jose on Thursday night, as Gauff defeated Osaka 6-4, 6-4 in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,250 at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.
A crowd that had a noticeable preference for Osaka instead saw the 18-year-old American put on a show. Gauff landed her first serve 58% of the time and then won those points an astonishing 85% of the time.
Gauff showed some sterling defense on the night, breaking Osaka three times and winning 29 points when returning serve. In the second set, Gauff won five games in a row to build what felt like an insurmountable lead — and could have made the evening a quick one.
It would have been an understandable result for Osaka. It was just her second match since losing in the first round of the French Open in late May, as she missed the entire grass court season battling an Achilles injury. The 24-year-old even admitted after she won her first round match in three sets on Tuesday that she didn’t care if she won that match, as she was more focused on finding the fun in her sport again.
Even in defeat, there were moments where she clearly was enjoying herself. But the takeaway that could scare the rest of the players on tour is the fight she showed after giving away the two breaks in the second set.
Osaka dug herself a 5-1 hole, then went down 0-40 to give Gauff three match points, but Osaka fought all the way back to deuce. She then gave a fourth match point away, but recovered again and won the game.
With Gauff perhaps a bit flustered, Osaka got her first break of the match to make it 5-3, only to give away three straight points again to put her back in a 0-40 hole again. But Osaka once again defended all three match points, got the advantage and nailed an ace to take the game and give a very excited yell with it.
“It’s rare that someone comes back from down 40-love twice, but it’s Naomi,” Gauff said.
In Gauff’s second attempt to serve for the match, she continued to force Osaka to test her athleticism. And, on her eighth match point, she finally finished off the former No. 1 player in the world.
With the win, Gauff evens up her all-time series against Osaka at two apiece. It’s not hard to envision a world where these two face each other another dozen times or more — and perhaps even in Grand Slam finals, too.
The fans in San Jose seemed to understand that and feel that on Thursday, jamming the grounds at San Jose State well before the match began and filing into their seats right at the start of the match. Gauff seemed dearly appreciative of the love shown to herself and Osaka — both for their on-court play and for their outspoken ways off the court, too.
I’m glad that you guys actually support us and support what we say and care about us, no matter what,” Gauff said. “This is one of the best crowds I’ve played in [front of]. I’ve said all week, it’s a smaller stadium, but it feels so loud.
“This is a reason why I play tennis and why I love doing this, week-in and week-out.”