NEW YORK • American teen sensation Cori Gauff's first appearance at Arthur Ashe Stadium left both her and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka crying on Saturday night and produced one of the most touching moments in US Open history.
Defending champion Osaka captured the last eight games in a dominating 6-3, 6-0 third-round victory that had 15-year-old Gauff wiping away tears, but it was what happened next that was memorable.
The 21-year-old Japanese star pleaded with Gauff, who trained at the same Florida tennis centre as Osaka when they were younger, to stay on the court and join her for a post-match interview.
"I definitely wanted to leave the court because I'm not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone," Gauff said. "I didn't want to take that moment away from her as well.
"She told me, 'It's better than crying in the shower.' She convinced me multiple times to stay. I kept saying no. Finally I said, 'OK, I'll do it.' Because I didn't know what to do."
Wiping away tears, she stayed and poured out her heart as the crowd roared with excitement at the sporting gesture by Osaka.
The reigning Australian Open champion said she had the idea to invite Gauff into the interview when they were shaking hands at the net.
"The thing that people don't see is that we go into the locker room and just cry and do press after," she said. "I thought it would be nice if she addressed the people who came and obviously cheered so hard for her."
This was their first match against each other and unlikely to be the last, in what many experts see as part of a changing landscape at the top of women's tennis.
Osaka said: "She seems very intelligent, so I think there's automatically things that she's going to change the next time that we play.
"I'm not necessarily looking forward to that, but I think it will be fun for you guys to watch."
Next up for her is 13th-seeded Belinda Bencic with a quarter-final berth at stake. A former prodigy herself, Bencic, 22, broke into the top 10 as a teenager before wrist surgery in 2017 stopped her progress.
But the Swiss is back in earnest now. She is one of the game's best counterpunchers and is at her most dangerous on hard courts.
Moving into the men's fourth round were three-time champion Rafael Nadal, who beat South Korea's Chung Hyeon 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and 2014 title winner Marin Cilic.
The pair are the only past Grand Slam champions in their half of the draw and now must face each other.
Cilic, the 22nd seed, overcame his own 17 double-faults and withstood 40 aces from 14th-seeded John Isner to win 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.
Others through were world No. 6 Alexander Zverev, No. 13 Gael Monfils, No. 24 Matteo Berrettini and unseeded Andrey Rublev, who beat the ever-combustible Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. "I had chances. I just didn't take them," said Kyrgios. "Nowhere near my best tennis, but it is what it is."
After making headlines this week for both his comments and on-court behaviour, the Australian avoided controversy on Saturday but did shout "whistle-blower" in the direction of a line judge who had gone to the chair umpire to report foul language.
Rublev, who reached the New York quarter-final two years ago, will face Italian Berrettini.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, ASSOCIATED PRESS