Everyone keeps finding out that no matter an opponent’s experience or accolades, no matter the stakes or the stage, Gauff plays with determination and delivers the goods.
Gauff became the youngest player in the professional era to eliminate the reigning women’s champion at the Australian Open, beating former No. 1 Naomi Osaka 6-3, 6-4 in the third round at Melbourne Park on Friday.
After the match, during her on-court interview, Gauff turned into a rather typical teen, joking about wanting to take “a selfie for Instagram” with Rod Laver, the 11-time major champion after whom the stadium is named.
“Honestly, like, what is my life? Like, oh, my gosh!” Gauff told the crowd. “Two years ago, I lost first round in juniors and now I’m here. This is crazy.”
She is also the youngest player to beat a top-five opponent in a women’s tour-level match since Jennifer Capriati did it at 15 in 1991.
“You don’t want to lose to a 15-year-old, you know?” Osaka said.
It was the second significant result of Day 5 in Melbourne: In the same quarter of the bracket, 23-time major champion Serena Williams lost to 27th-seeded Wang Qiang 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5 earlier.
Gauff pulled this off with some big serving, consistent groundstrokes and by letting Osaka largely be her own undoing.
Osaka made 30 unforced errors, Gauff merely 17. This was a rematch from the third round at the U.S. Open last September; Osaka won that one in straight sets, then consoled a crying Gauff afterward and encouraged her to speak to the fans.
“Her serve is way better,” Osaka said. “I feel like I wasn’t really swinging freely, and she was.”
So, Naomi, could you have done something differently?
“Put the ball in the court,” came the reply.
Gauff’s game is growing so quickly.
Osaka, for her part, made her own rapid ascent to the top of tennis, claiming the trophies at the U.S. Open in 2018 and Australian Open in 2019 to rise to No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She is only 22 herself.