Osaka herself is still only 21, but there’s such a big gap in age and experience between the two players that the Japanese two-time Grand Slam champion could easily pass for a veteran in this contest!
The world No. 1 will be looking to win her 10th consecutive match at the US Open, having won the title in stunning fashion last year, and added wins over Anna Blinkova and Magda Linette in her title defence earlier in the week.
She was stretched to three sets by Blinkova in the first round, but she took down Bronx champion, Linette in straights in the second round, battling back from a break down in the second set to win 6-2 6-4.
Osaka is now 28-10 for the 2019 season, the highlight of which has been her run to the Australian Open title, and subsequent rise to No. 1 at the start of the year. She hasn’t quite hit those heights since Melbourne, as she has made just the one other semi-final since then, in Stuttgart, and quarter finals in Madrid, Rome, Toronto and Cincinnati, where she retired with a knee injury. That problem cast doubts over her chances at the US Open, but she has not had any obvious problems so far in New York.
Heading into the US Open, Osaka had lost her last two Grand Slam- her 16-match winning streak at was broken by Katerina Siniakova in the third round at Roland Garros, while she crashed to an opening round loss to Yulia Putintseva at Wimbledon- but she has got back to winning ways in New York, beating Blinkova and Linette to reach the third round, where she plays Gauff on Saturday night.
The New York crowd will be out in force for this one, as 15-year-old sensation, Gauff attempts to reach the fourth round for a second straight major.
Gauff was a relative unknown up until last month, but the 2018 French Open junior champion made a spectacular entry into Grand Slam tennis, qualifying for Wimbledon, and then going on to reach the fourth round of the main draw, following wins over two-time Wimbledon champion, Venus Williams, former semi-finalist, Magdalena Rybarikova and seasoned pro, Polona Hercog. Her run was ended by eventual champion, Simona Halep in the Round of 16.
Wimbledon was just her second tour-level main draw tournament, with her first being in Miami, where she defeated Cathy McNally before falling to Daria Kasatkina in the second round. She also played Washington in the lead up to the US Open, losing to Zarina Diyas in the first round, but she has compiled two quality wins in her US Open main draw debut, scoring three-set victories over fellow young gun, Anastasia Potapova and Hungarian, Timea Babos.
Gauff hit nine aces against Babos, winning 83% of points on her first serve, and striking 32 winners and 34 unforced errors as she battled to a 6-2 4-6 6-4 victory after two hours and 22 minutes.
“It was great,” the teenager said of the win. “I thought that the first set, I definitely was in control. In the second set, [Babos] raised her level and I wasn’t able to finish the set. But she played amazing. I thought I played well, too. It was a great match.”
Just two years after claiming a runner-up finish at the US Open juniors, she has moved into the third round of the main event, and is a win over the world No. 1, Osaka away from reaching the second week.
Currently ranked 140th in the world, Gauff is projected to move to the brink of the top 100 by virtue of her third round run at Flushing Meadows, and she will definitely get a two-digit ranking if she beats Osaka on Saturday and makes the fourth round.