NEW YORK, Sept 1: Defending champion Naomi Osaka consoled a tearful Coco Gauff after a crushing US Open victory in a showdown billed as �the future of women�s tennis� while Rafael Nadal cruised into the last 16.
World number one Osaka overpowered 15-year-old Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in 65 minutes to keep her title defence on track before sharing a warm embrace with an opponent overwhelmed by the occasion in the New York spotlight.
The emotional clash was followed by tearful on-court interviews, Osaka asking Gauff to join her with the microphone as they met at the net.
�It was kind of instinctive because when I shook her hand, I saw that she was kind of tearing up a little. Then it reminded me how young she was,� Osaka said.
�I wanted her to have her head high, not walk off the court sad. I want her to, like, be aware that she�s accomplished so much and she�s still so young.�
Osaka said the match was one of her best since winning the Australian Open title.
�This is the most focused I�ve been since Australia,� Osaka said, telling Gauff: �Sorry for playing you in this mentality.�
The primetime third-round clash at Arthur Ashe Stadium pitted 21-year-old Japanese star Osaka against the American, who made a fourth-round Wimbledon run on her Grand Slam debut.
Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, called it �the future of women�s tennis�, while Novak Djokovic labelled Gauff �a new superstar�.
But Gauff, the youngest player through to the third round here since Anna Kournikova in 1996, struggled in her first match under the lights on Ashe.
�She (Osaka) did amazing and I am going to learn a lot from this match,� Gauff said.
�She�s the number one player in the world right now, so I know what I need to do to get to that level.�
Osaka next faces Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic, who was handed a walkover when Anett Kontaveit withdrew due to illness.
Three-time champion Nadal returned from an extended rest to dispose of 170th-ranked South Korean qualifier Chung Hyeon 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, having benefited from three days off after a walkover.
The Spanish second seed will meet 2014 champion Marin Cilic for a place in the quarterfinals.
�I�m happy to be in the fourth round for one more time. It was a good match,� said Nadal, who quit with injury against Juan Martin del Potro during last year�s semifinal.
�I�m trying to play a little bit more aggressive and a little bit less than before.�
�It�s true last year I had some tough matches. You never know what�s better or worse,� he said of his serene progress this week.
Cilic, the 22nd seed and 2017 Wimbledon finalist, took out top US hope John Isner in four tight sets.
�I�ve played quite a few times with Rafa. When you play these top guys you have to come up with your great tennis,� said Cilic.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev made it to the second week in New York for the first time after fighting past Aljaz Bedene 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).
Andrey Rublev, a 2017 quarterfinalist, beat Nick Kyrgios in three entertaining sets while 13th seed Gael Monfils is the highest-ranked player left in that quarter of the draw after he outlasted Denis Shapovalov in five sets.
Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu, seeded 15th, brushed past two-time US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 to extend her best Grand Slam run.
The 19-year-old, a winner at Toronto and Indian Wells this season, improved to 30-4 for the year despite missing much of the clay and grass portion with a shoulder injury.
�I think everything is just clicking with me,� said Andreescu, who had never gone beyond round two at a major prior to this tournament.
�I�ve been through a lot with injuries and have just taken everything I�ve learned from the past couple of years and brought it into this year.�
American qualifier Taylor Townsend continued her surprise run after reaching the last 16 for the first time at a Slam.
Townsend, ranked 116th, followed up her shock win over reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep by beating another Romanian, Sorana Cirstea, 7-5, 6-2. � AFP