In a society that praises fierceness while simultaneously pining women against the other in a who-wore-it-best mentality, it’s refreshing to see two young women show mutual respect and kindness toward one another. On Saturday, 21-year-old Naomi Osaka beat 15-year-old Coco Gauff at the U.S. Open in New York. This win for Osaka was a milestone for the young champ as she garnered her 10th straight win in the Grand Slam event.
In a winning moment, we typically see an athlete gloat around the boxing ring, do some kind of dance on the football field, or drop to the ground in sheer glory on the tennis court. But on Saturday the world saw something extraordinary that I hope becomes the norm in the sports world.
The moment Osaka beat Gauff, she didn’t express in a huge burst of emotion — which is her right — but she simply gestured “yes” with her fist and then went to shake Gauff’s hand. This is standard sportsmanship. But Osaka went beyond showing fair sportsmanship.
When it came time to do her post-win interview with ESPN, Osaka went over to Gauff and asked her to join her. Gauff, who was emotional over her loss, agreed and the two spoke to ESPN. This moment was reserved for Osaka only, but she chose to share this moment of glory with her opposer because two people were playing, not just one.
“I’m going to learn a lot from this match, and she’s been so sweet to me, so thank you for this,” Gauff said. “I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to take this moment away from her, because she really deserves it.”
The ESPN reporter then asked Osaka what it feels like to be a mentor, but she said she is nothing of the sort.
“I don’t think I’m a mentor,” Osaka said, turning to Gauff’s trainers. “You guys raised an amazing player. I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us, and for me, the fact that both of us made it and we’re both still working as hard as we can, I think it’s incredible, and I think you guys are amazing. I think, Coco, you’re amazing.”
This moment went viral for a variety of reasons. But first, you may recall last year’s U.S. Open Final when Osaka beat Serena Williams in a controversial game. While Williams was angry at the bad calls by the tennis chair umpire, she still took time to express support for her when the crowd was booing Osaka, which in turn made her cry. This public display of sisterhood shows how Osaka was able to be so open with her support of Gauff.
Osaka may not consider herself a mentor, but what Williams taught her last year is that you should comfort, support, and cheer on your opposer especially when they are young athletes who look up to you. This should be the norm in all industries and life.
People are so consumed with getting ahead in life that they’re not considering who they’re stepping on to get there. Winning isn’t just basking in the moment of being on top but giving a helping hand to the person that is right next to you.