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Tennis' Display Of Sportsmanship Catches Attention Of Sports World

Sep 2, 2019
Originally published on September 2, 2019 4:36 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Over the weekend, sports fans were given a treat by two of the rising stars of women's tennis. Twenty-one-year-old Naomi Osaka faced 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round at the U.S. Open.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Another aggressive return, and Osaka breaks again. It's 4-2.

CHANG: And while the number-one ranked player in the world, Osaka, beat Gauff in straight sets, it was the post-match consoling between the two players that has everyone feeling the love. Here's what Gauff told ESPN right after her loss.

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COCO GAUFF: She told me that I did amazing, and good luck. And then she asked if I could do the on-court interview with her, and I said no because I know I was going to cry the whole time, but she encouraged me to do it.

CHANG: Now, typically, the post-match on-court interviews are left for the winning player, but as Soraya McDonald, a writer for The Undefeated, put it...

SORAYA MCDONALD, BYLINE: Part of what you saw in that moment, aside from this just beautiful sportsmanship and empathy and compassion, was also a recognition of what it is like to be a black woman in a sport where you're still very much an outsider.

CHANG: McDonald says that very sentiment was reflected when it was Osaka's turn to speak. She pointed at Gauff's parents in the stands.

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NAOMI OSAKA: I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us, and for me, like, the fact that both of us made it and we're both still working as hard as we can - I think it's incredible, and I think you guys are amazing. I think, Coco, you're amazing.

CHANG: It was on that very court in Arthur Ashe Stadium that Osaka won her first Grand Slam last year amidst a booing crowd. McDonald called this year's gesture the moment when, quote, "black girl magic" became black girl solidarity.

MCDONALD: It basically lets everyone know, you know, on national television that there's no animosity between them. They're here for each other, and I think that that shows an amazing amount of grace.

CHANG: And if you're wondering if Naomi Osaka will have a chance to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles, well, she was upset this afternoon. But it does seem the future of American tennis is in good hands. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.