In a blockbuster clash between two of the biggest names in tennis, Coco Gauff held off a late fightback to defeat former No. 1 Naomi Osaka in San Jose on Thursday night, 6-4, 6-4, and move through to the quarterfinals of the WTA 500 event.

There wasn't much between the two megastars in the first few games of the match, but from her 1-2 service game Gauff went on a tear, blasting huge serves and groundstrokes and running just about everything down that Osaka sent her way—and the American teenager ended up reeling off 10 of the next 13 games to build a 6-4, 5-1 lead.

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, didn't go down without a fight—she staved off a total of seven match points over the course of the next three games, holding from triple match point down to make it 2-5, breaking Gauff for the first time in the match to make it 3-5, and then holding from triple match point down again to make it 4-5.

But Gauff put out the fire right when she needed to, closing it out on her eighth match point in the next game to seal the victory after an hour and two minutes on court.

“1-5, 0-40, that shows how much of a champion Naomi is—it didn’t come out her way today, but it shows that she’s going to fight, no matter what. That’s what I have in me, too,” Gauff said. “I’m glad that people got to experience that type of match today.”

Gauff compared Osaka to a pair of other legendary comeback queens.

“You know certain players, no matter what the score is, it’s going to be tough. I feel like Naomi is one of those players for me,” Gauff said. “Venus is another one of those players where I felt like no matter what lead I had, the match could be taken away from me at any moment. There’s other players, too—Serena, I’ve never gotten to play her, but if I did, I know if I’m up 6-0, 5-0, I still don’t care, because I think the match could still go her way. You feel that before you step on the court, and I think—I hope—people feel it with me.

“But yeah, at 5-1, 40-0, I was not settled at all. It’s very rare that somebody comes back from 40-0 twice! But you know it’s Naomi, so that shows how much of a fight she has.

"She could have easily thrown in the towel, but she didn’t.”

Gauff's reward for defeating former No. 1 Osaka in the round of 16 is a quarterfinal clash against former No. 2 Paula Badosa.

Gauff's reward for defeating former No. 1 Osaka in the round of 16 is a quarterfinal clash against former No. 2 Paula Badosa.


Gauff has now tied Osaka in their head-to-head, 2-2, with Osaka winning their first meeting in the third round of the 2019 US Open (6-3, 6-0), Gauff winning their second meeting in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open (6-3, 6-4), and Osaka edging Gauff in the second round of Cincinnati last summer (4-6, 6-3, 6-4).

With Osaka currently ranked No. 41 on the WTA rankings, Gauff—who’s No. 11—has now won her last 20 matches in a row against players ranked outside the Top 30. Her last loss to someone ranked outside that elite came six and a half months ago at the Australian Open, where she fell to China’s Wang Qiang, a former No. 12 who was No. 110 at the time.

And things won’t get any easier for Gauff, with No. 4-ranked Paula Badosa awaiting her in Friday’s quarterfinals. The two have split their two previous meetings, both of which have come in the last 10 months, with the Spaniard prevailing at Indian Wells last October, 6-2, 6-2, but the American getting revenge in Doha this year, 6-2, 6-3.

“Another tough match. She has a really good baseline game and then she can also play all the court, and at the net, and good serving,” Gauff said of the Spaniard.

“It’s going to be a tough match—that’s what I knew going into the tournament when I saw the draw! But playing tough players and high seeds like this in these warm-up tournaments before the US Open is what I hope for. I think playing these matches, and coming out of them winning or losing, is going to help better prepare me for the Grand Slams, where those tough matches can really make or break a player.”