Naomi Osaka on Coco Gauff: ‘She’s improving and it’s only a matter of time before she wins a [Grand] Slam’

Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka share a hug

They will square off for a fourth time when they meet in a blockbuster clash at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic and Naomi Osaka admits she is impressed with Coco Gauff’s improvement and her mentality.

The duo’s path to the second round was contrasting as Osaka had to battle for her win against Zheng Qinwen, securing a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory in more than two hours, while Gauff rolled over Anhelina Kalinina 6-1, 6-0 in a match that didn’t even last 60 minutes.

But all that will be forgotten when the two do battle in San Jose on Thursday.

While the Japanese star has the experience as she is a four-time Grand Slam winner and former world No 1, Gauff is in better shape and Osaka highlighted some of the things she admired about the 18-year-old.

“What’s always impressed me about Coco is her mentality,” Osaka said. “When I was her age, I would find myself getting frustrated and I would show it. I just think it’s really cool how she’s able to stay really neutral all the time.

“She’s been on the Tour for a while and I think people don’t know that because of how young she is. She’s improving every year, so I think there’s a lot that she’s learning and it’s only a matter of time before she wins a [Grand] Slam.”

Tuesday’s win over Zheng was the former world No 1’s first outing since her first-round exit from Roland Garros as she nursing an Achilles injury. Gauff, meanwhile, was runner-up Paris and at the Berlin Open while she reached the third round at Wimbledon.

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Osaka has slumped to No 41 in the WTA Rankings while Gauff is at No 11, but the former leads their head-to-head 2-1 having won their most recent outing at the 2021 Western & Southern Open.

“It’s good to be back playing, I haven’t played since May. I didn’t realise that but somebody told me,” the 24-year-old said.

Osaka added of her win over Zheng: “I have a lot of confidence in myself in third sets. I’m not sure if it’s subconscious or not but I do remember thinking it’s going to be hard for her to break me. Because I learned a lot from challenging that last ball in that game that I did get broken.

“I think that’s one thing that I have above her is that I have a lot of experience. I’ve definitely played more matches than her, so it’s going to be interesting to watch her grow.”