The hype machine is likely to be in overdrive on Saturday when Naomi Osaka and Cori Gauff face off for a spot in the fourth round of the US Open. The defending champion will hope to send the new darling of American tennis packing but may not have it all her own way if she is below her best.
Gauff has continued where she left off at Wimbledon, with two good wins to make it this far. She has shown inconsistency and weakness as you’d expect from even the most talented 15 year old but her fight and heart has never been in doubt throughout her two slam runs. She beat Timea Babos in three sets to get to this stage, following a comeback win against Anastasia Potapova. “I was tested a lot. I think we both were just testing each other. It’s just that type of match where anyone could have won.” she said afterwards. “I thought that the first set, I definitely was in control. In the second set, she raised her level and I wasn’t able to finish the set.”
Through two rounds, Osaka hasn’t been blitzing through the draw like she did last year. She was taken three by Anna Blinkova before beating Magda Linette in straight sets on Thursday. Osaka was down a break in the second set to the in-form Pole but managed to fight back to avoid another drawn out affair. “I feel like I had my moments where I played really well,” a relatively happy Osaka said afterwards. “Of course, there were moments that I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. But I think the main thing for me was that I was able to adjust whenever I figured out something was going wrong, so I think I’m heading in the right direction.”
For Gauff, it seems the logical end point for this slam run with a major step up in class with regards to her opponent. While her runs have been impressive for her age and inexperience, it is fair to say that she hadn’t faced many high level players other than a Venus Williams who put in her worst performance for a long time. Osaka should be able to win this one easily and move one step closer to defending her title.
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in straight sets