NEW YORK — The first time Coco Gauff played on Arthur Ashe Stadium ended in tears.
It was 2019 and she had arrived in New York fresh off of her star-making run at Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier. Suddenly everyone knew who she was, and fans had circled a potential third-round meeting with Naomi Osaka, the defending champion, as soon as the draw was released. The hype was deafening.
But the match did not live up to expectations. Osaka needed just 65 minutes, and Gauff won only three games. The tears were streaming down Gauff’s face within seconds of the final point.
It was what happened next that went viral at the time and has since recirculated around the internet over the past several days. Osaka, then 21, went over to Gauff to console her and tell her it was okay to cry. She invited Gauff to join her during the post-match interview, typically reserved for just the winner, and in front of 23,000 captivated fans, Gauff spoke to ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez as her voice broke with emotion.
“[Osaka] told me I did amazing and good luck, and then she asked if I could do the on-court interview with her. I said no because I knew I was going to cry the whole time but she encouraged me to do it. She did amazing, and I’m going to learn a lot from this match.”
Four years after that fateful meeting, Gauff was in tears again on Ashe. But this time, it was tears of joy.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old defeated soon-to-be world No. 1 and reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, to win the first major of her career. She struggled with Sabalenka’s power in the opening set, but she found her rhythm and fought back for the victory.
When it was over, she fell to the ground. As she lay on her back on the court, she put her hands on her face and sobbed. There were then hugs, and more tears, with her parents — Gauff later said she had never seen her father cry before — and the rest of her team.
She then spoke to the crowd, again, with Fernandez.
“Oh my goodness, it means so much to me,” Gauff said. “I feel like I’m a little bit in shock in this moment … But I realized God puts you through tribulations and trials and that makes this moment even sweeter than I could have imagined.”
Gauff is now the youngest American to win the US…