Coco Gauff sets up mouthwatering Naomi Osaka clash at San Jose: ‘She’s a champion, on and off the court’

Shahida Jacobs
Coco Gauff swinging

Coco Gauff produced a clinical display against Anhelina Kalinina to reach the second round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic where she will face former world No 1 Naomi Osaka.

World No 11 Gauff, in action for the first time since losing in the third round at Wimbledon, required just 55 minutes to brush aside Kalinina 6-1, 6-0 to ensure a blockbuster showdown with Osaka at the WTA 500 hard-court tournament.

The sixth seed broke in game two as it took the Ukrainian a while to settle down. After Kalinina finally got on the scoreboard in game four, she then picked up her game as she threatened to break in game five.

However, her joy was short-lived as the 18-year-old Gauff broke for a second time in game six and then served it out. It was one-way traffic in the second set as the American broke in games one, five and six.

“Today’s match was great,” the French Open runner-up, who is looking to reach the top 10 in the WTA Rankings for the first time with a good run in San Jose, said. “I was glad to find out I was playing the night match. I love night sessions … This crowd was pretty energetic. It’s a small stadium, but the sound is really loud, so I enjoyed it.”

Gauff knows a tougher challenge awaits in the second round as she faces four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka, who edged Zheng Qinwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

“I played her a lot of times and she’s obviously going to be a tough opponent,” the teenager is quoted as saying by WTA Tour.

“Either way, win or lose, I think that the match is going to be great. She’s such a champion, on and off the court, so I guess those are the type of people that you want to play, and I look forward to playing those matches.”

The duo have met three times with Osaka edging their head-to-head 2-1. The Japanese player won their 2019 US Open encounter 6-3, 6-0 before the American hit back with a 6-3, 6-4 win at the 2020 Australian Open. Osaka won their most recent match at the Western & Southern Open last year as she secured come-from-behind 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Osaka, though, has struggled with an Achilles injury in recent months and she is slightly undercooked as her match against Zheng was her first since she lost in the first round of the French Open in mid-May.