by ALEX HAAS '21
On August 31, 2019, millions of people all over the world tuned in to watch the third round match of the US Open tennis tournament between between 15-year-old Coco Gauff and prior US Open champion 21-year-old Naomi Osaka. It was an exciting match between two talented athletes.
Although the match ended with Osaka taking home the win, both players were outstanding, and the crowd was thrilled to be there to see this incredible match. Both players showed great toughness and passion throughout the match, but it was after play ended that really caught the world’s attention. As the crowd cheered on, both players were seen with tears in their eyes as they were talking to one another before Osaka was to be interviewed courtside about her win.
Gauff showed great sportsmanship by congratulating Osaka after a tough loss, and the returning champ returned the favor by thanking Gauff and her parents in front of everyone in the stadium and by inviting the young challenger to do the post-match interview with her. Gauff initially turned her down out of fear that she would cry the whole time, but the Osaka's gesture was a surprise that no one anticipated.
Gauff herself said, “I wanted to leave the court because I lost and she was like ‘No, come with me’ and I was just shocked because no one ever does that.”
Gauff and Osaka alike set an example for the upcoming matches by influencing other players to be calmer, more respectful and more sportsmanlike. The more reverent and calm tone in the US Open matches was especially important after last year’s US Open Championship when Serena Williams lost to the underdog, Osaka, and yelled at the refs.
The sincere hospitality shown between Gauff and Osaka was also noteworthy from a business standpoint. Katie Haas, Chief Operating Officer of the Western & Southern Open, said, “A match like that can really be a difference maker in terms of showcasing the sport to young girls and boys, as well as new audiences that might otherwise not have tuned in. The reason being that not only are these fierce female competitors both so young, but because they both appreciate each other’s tenacity so much."
Audiences like to see tough and emotional players like Gauff and Osaka play hard on the court, but then be each other’s best friend off the court. The sportsmanship displayed by these two players is unfortunately not seen very often, so when it is present, it attracts an even larger audience.
“The ‘Coco effect’ will hopefully continue in the future and help to raise more awareness for tennis worldwide,” said Haas.