By Rodney Franklin
The third round of the US Open in New York was set with Naomi Osaka the 2018 US Open champion and Coco Gauff the 15 year old phenom. The Arthur Ashe stadium in the Queens borough of New York City is the largest of its kind in the world and was filled to capacity. One reporter asked a couple who were in the nose bleed section, “Why would you come all the way up here when you can see the match better on your television at home?” They responded, “we are here to support Coco!” Thousands were there to support Coco but it was not her night to have a victory against the number one player and former champ. Coco lost the match but something really special happened after the game.
There is an interview that occurs after the match which is “live” with the winner, reporter and audience. Gauff was visibly upset, packing her tennis equipment and heading to the locker room where she would probably increase the water height of the Flushing River in Queens with a good cry. But “breaking tradition,” Osaka asked Gauff to join her for the on-court interview.
“These people are here for you,” Osaka told Gauff, who initially declined the opportunity because she was afraid she’d cry on camera. But Osaka wanted to give Gauff a chance to address the crowd that had, for much of the match, been cheering for Gauff. “I think its better than going into the shower and crying,” Osaka told Gauff.” We have to let these people know how you feel.” Gauff thanked Osaka for her kindness and example of being an amazing tennis player.
In a later press conference Osaka explained her rationale to ask Gauff to join her saying, “It was kind of instinct, because when I shook her hand I saw she was kind of tearing up a little, then it reminded me how young she is.” She said she figured that “normal people don’t watch the press conference unless they’re fan-fans, and so I was thinking it would be nice for her to address the people who watched her play, and for me, I just thought about what I wanted her to feel leaving the court. I wanted her to have her head high and not walk off sad. I feel like the amount of media on her now is kind of insane, so I just want her to take care of herself.”
This was a night to remember when the acts of grace, humility, and integrity were seen by thousands of fans in the stadium and millions on television. How can we create more of these acts in places where we work, live and have community? Osaka and Coco have given us a blueprint. Whose ready to serve?