Maybe, some years in the future, if Coco Gauff goes on to fulfill the destiny that some have predicted for her, her win over Naomi Osaka, 6-4, 6-4, on Thursday night will serve as a torch-passing moment.
Or maybe it will just be Chapter 4 in a rivalry that will stretch for decades. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova played 80 matches during the 1970s and 1980s, 60 times in finals. Plenty of tennis fans are hoping for something like that from Gauff and Osaka, especially after Gauff’s nervy win in San Jose, Calif., at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, one of several tuneup tournaments for the U.S. Open.
Gauff, who is still just 18 even though she seems like she has been around for a while now — because, well, she has been — surged to the lead, pounding her powerful serve, especially as she sealed the final game of the first set. She looked like she would cruise to the victory, building a 5-1 second-set lead. Osaka was serving at 0-40.