Teenage star Coco Gauff has melted the hearts of tennis fans all over the world by her humble request to meet Australian legend Rod Laver after beating Naomi Osaka.
In her first career match on Rod Laver Arena, Gauff obliterated the reigning Australian Open champion in straight sets, and capped it off by revealing she was yet to meet the man who’s name graces centre court.
“Oh my gosh I’m on Rod Laver Arena. I can’t believe this,” she said on Nine.
“I walked past him a couple times in the hallways, but I never said hi because I’m a little bit nervous.
“If he sees this, tell him we can set up a meet-up some time. I need a selfie for Instagram.”
Gauff definitely caught the attention of the tennis great with her performance, with Laver replying to the 15-year-old American on Twitter a short time later, and Gauff revealed that she only found out about Laver’s tweet after her mother sent her a screenshot of it.
The win over Osaka continues what has been a truly meteoric rise for the youngster, coming just two years after being eliminated in the first round of the juniors of the same tournament.
Gauff revealed that it was Swiss Maestro Roger Federer that had consoled her after that crushing defeat, setting her on her path to stardom.
“The person who came up to me was Roger, and that definitely had a big impact because I think I won the French Open and I’m pretty sure the French Open was my next tournament after that conversation,” Gauff recalled.
Gauff upsets defending champion
“Roger was also the third person I saw after my match today. After today, I still haven’t seen my parents. Inside he told me congrats and I was like, thank you, trying to be calm but inside I was like, oh wow.
“He’s always been a nice person, not just to me but I see him with other people as well.
“He’s that person that no matter how many times you speak to him you’re just in awe because of what he’s done both on and off the court.”
Naomi Osaka v Coco Gauff: AO Highlights
It was a stunning turnaround for Gauff against the same opponent who handed her a 6-3 6-0 loss in the third round of last year’s US Open, and the teen revealed how she was able to turn the tables.
“Definitely the pace of her ball,” she said.
“She plays faster than most players and I think at the US Open I wasn’t really prepared for that.
“Today I definitely showed that I’ve worked on that in the off-season.”
Gauff also explained how she’s been able to be so composed in big moments, despite her relative lack of experience at majors.
“I always say this, but I learned a lot from that US Open, not just playing against Naomi, but the whole tournament,” she said.
“I think I was on edge the first three rounds and I think that was just dealing with all the media.
“Now I’m more playing and just having fun and me winning is a cherry on top. I’m honestly having a lot of fun on the court, even in those tight situations.”
Gauff’s incredible overhead slam
Osaka was praised globally for her sportsmanship after that US Open clash, encouraging the teary Gauff to join her in her on-court interview, and the gesture was not lost on the teen star.
“She’s a good player and a good person,” Gauff said.
“Win or lose, I think I was going to be satisfied with today’s match, just because when you play someone like that, and a person like that, you can’t be too disappointed by a loss because she’s been so nice to me.
“You all know Naomi is quiet so I didn’t really get too much conversation with her before (last year’s US Open), but after that moment I definitely saw the type of person she was.
“I’m forever thankful for that moment. It wasn’t just a great moment for me, but a great moment for the people watching.
“I think sometimes in sports people think we’re all enemies, but we’re not. Most of us are all friends.
“Obviously on the court we take things intense, but a real athlete can give your all on the court and then be nice off the court.
“That’s what true champions are and that’s why she has two Grand Slams because of her on court and off court personality.”
Stream every match and every court of the Australian Open on 9Now. 20 January – 2 February 2020.