Kyrgios sent packing as Rublev reaches last 16

NEW YORK: US teen sensation Coco Gauff’s first appearance at Arthur Ashe Stadium left both players crying Saturday night and produced one of the most touching moments in US Open history. Top-ranked defending champion Naomi 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 to stay on the court and join her for a post-match interview. “I definitely was wanting 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, herself in tears, to a child rival needing support at a painful moment.

NEW YORK: Naomi Osaka of Japan hits a return to Coco Gauff of the US during their Round Three Women’s Singles match at the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. — AFP

“After the match, I think she just proved that she’s a true athlete,” Gauff said. “For me the definition of an athlete is someone who on the court treats you like your worst enemy but off the court can be your best friend. I think that’s what she did tonight.
“She really showed sportsmanship. I mean, I wasn’t expecting it.” And Gauff had no regrets about staying and speaking as the tears rolled down her face. “I’m glad I was able to experience that moment,” Gauff said. “I’m glad the crowd was kind of helping me and her. She was crying, she won. I was crying. Everybody was crying. I was like, I don’t know why she was crying. ‘You won the match.’

“Everybody was crying. But I think it was a good moment for both of us.” Osaka’s own moment of ultimate victory last year was spoiled by boos in the same stadium after a controversial game penalty against Serena Williams helped her take the title, prompting her to later call the moment “bittersweet,” something Gauff understands.

“I’m still a little bit sad because it’s still fairly new. I think tomorrow I’ll really cherish the experience,” Gauff said. “I hope that next year I’ll be able to play on Ashe again. It was a great court, a great atmosphere out there. Maybe next time I’ll come out on top.”

Gauff usually only projects strength on court, as in her run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in July in her Grand Slam debut. “I guess it shows that I’m human. Athletes in general just experience things, and we show emotion, good and bad,” Gauff said.

“People see the more pumping up side of me, the more fiery side. I guess that side is good for other people to see. I’m glad I was able to experience that on the biggest stage. I really thank Naomi for that because it was a good moment for me.”

Gauff even found positives learning how far her game must grow to test Osaka. “I’ll learn a lot from this match. She’s the number one player in the world right now, so I know what I need to do to get to that level,” Gauff said. “She’s at the top of her game right now.
“I got to the third round in my first main draw US Open. I’m super proud of myself. I’m just going to continue to learn. “My dad told me I’m 15, I still have a lot to work on, a lot to improve. But I think that today definitely I learned a lot.”

Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios’ eventful U.S. Open ended in the third round as Russian Andrey Rublev turned aside the fiery Australian 7-6(5) 7-6(5) 6-3 in a battle of big servers on Saturday. Rublev looked up to the task from the start and proved to be unflappable against Kyrgios, who complained to his team in the box several times about not being able to see and later said he took time adjusting to the massive Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The Australian seemed to have no issues with his vision on serve, however, at one point firing four consecutive aces in a 40-second game to force a first-set tiebreak. He saved two set points before sending a backhand just wide to lose the opener.

Kyrgios got his only two break point chances while leading 3-2 in the second set but Rublev beat them both back. The pair remained on serve to bring up another tiebreak and while Kyrgios jumped out to a 4-0 lead a determined Rublev took seven of the next eight points to snatch the set and grab control of the match.

“I had chances. I just didn’t take them,” said Kyrgios. “Nowhere near my best tennis, but it is what it is.” The final set was on serve until Rublev got the only break of the match and immediately consolidated for a 5-2 lead that sent him on his way.

Kyrgios lost despite powering down 30 aces to Rublev’s 12 and winning almost 90% of his first-serve points while saving three of the four break points he faced. “His serve is the best on tour. I was just trying to focus on me to serve also well to keep my serve and see if I win tiebreaks or not,” said Rublev. “Today was my day and I am happy.”

Rublev came into the year’s final Grand Slam with plenty of confidence after he earned the biggest win of his career when he beat Roger Federer in the third round at Cincinnati. After making headlines this week for both his comments and on-court behaviour, Kyrgios avoided controversy on Saturday but did shout “whistleblower” 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 Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round today. – Agencies