Coco Gauff is on another captivating run at a Grand Slam tournament. Now she must get through defending champion Naomi Osaka to continue it.
The 15-year-old Gauff and the top-ranked Osaka meet in the US Open's latest version of a Super Saturday, a third-round match (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2) that is the most anticipated of the tournament thus far.
Gauff reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and has come right back a month later by starting the U.S. Open with a pair of three-set victories in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Now she gets to move to the biggest stage, under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
That was the setting when Osaka beat Serena Williams last year for her first major title, which she's at times looked capable of defending so far despite coming into the tournament following some recent left knee trouble.
As Gauff and Osaka prepare to meet under the US Open lights, top players and experts weigh in on the excitement.
Serena Williams: I think it's super exciting tennis. Coco is obviously much, much younger than Naomi, if you could say that, because Naomi is incredibly young. But it's shocking to say that Coco is about six years younger. I definitely think it's the future of women's tennis. And I'm really excited to just be a fan girl and kind of watch.
Pam Shriver: A year ago during the match, Naomi was able to shut out ALL of the chaos, noise, booing and favoritism to her American opponent during the match. Today, Cocomania will lead to an even more partisan crowd inside Ashe Stadium. Osaka is NOT in the same zone physically or mentally as last year's US Open. Naomi must try to find the same blinders today that she found last year in the finals.
There is no chance for as many controversial umpire interactions today, but a partisan USA crowd at the US Open at night can still have a huge influence on a match and once again help Coco find a way to win. Coco will find the Ashe nighttime experience bigger, louder yet farther removed from the court then the crowd on Armstrong Stadium in Rounds 1 and 2.
Novak Djokovic: Well, Coco is definitely a new superstar of tennis. It's great to see her fighting spirit, her intensity. She's only 15. She brings so much maturity in her game for such a young age. It's very impressive. Definitely a fan of her and fan of Naomi, as well, what she has done in the last couple of years. It's going to be really interesting because they're both very likable players and girls. They have a lot of fans. It's going to be definitely a great match to see.
Naomi and Coco go way back
US Open defending champion Naomi Osaka and 15-year-old Coco Gauff talk about training together in years gone by and the friendship that their fathers have.
Madison Keys: It's going to be a really fun match. I look forward to watching it. I think what Coco has done is amazing. Her ability to handle herself and everything that's come with her wins from Wimbledon, it was really, really incredible. The ability at 15 to be able to manage all that, have another really good run, is really impressive.
Roger Federer: Obviously Osaka is going to be the favorite. She played so great here last year already. But, you know, I think playing at home, there is always a shot and a chance, and [Coco's] done so well again here this tournament. I think we're all a bit surprised that she's able to back it up after Wimbledon, which was already an incredible run.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: This matchup is one of the most pop-culture-relevant stories. Both are in the mainstream spotlight, and both are coming into this match with different pressures. Osaka is going to bring her firepower. She's going to go for it no matter what. So far this tournament when everyone has seen her "unforced error" count go up, I've seen her just finding her range and not giving her opponent any rhythm, and real confidence that THEY are winning points.
Coco's movement, defense and ability to absorb power is the new gen way, and she's going to have to bring it to the court tonight. One of the biggest differences is what emotions you'll see coming out from both. ... Coco is going to feed off the crowd and get outwardly amped up, whereas Naomi will put on her business face. Both personalities have pros and cons. Coco can ride her loud and outward energy into winning points, and Naomi can fuel her steely approach by managing her emotions and funneling it into her shots. We've seen both player approach pressure and be successful and both will draw on those.
Alex de Minaur: It's amazing what [Coco's] been able to accomplish at such a young age. I mean, I was watching her match [Thursday] night. I'm pretty sure the whole of America was watching that match. It's pretty insane how much the Americans have gotten behind her, and it's great to see. ... I think between the players, I'm sure a lot of even the guys would have tuned in to watch that match.
Elina Svitolina: I think the way [Coco] was handling those tough matches. Most of the matches she played was three sets. Yeah, that's impressive for such a young girl. I remember myself, I was not even playing seniors. That's very impressive. But I think now these days the young stars, they are going for it. They have no fear. They're just throwing everything at us. That's what's really impressive, not only for her but young 17-, 18-, 19-years-old players. That's what stands out. That's why they take big titles. They play quite good matches. That's what's changed I think maybe the past two years.
Rafael Nadal: [Coco's] tall and she has a lot of power. I think she has a great intensity playing. Let's see. Of course, looks like she has an amazing future in front. I really wish her all the very best. It's tough to put lot of pressure on her now or talk too much about her now. Even if she's doing amazing things, she is very young. In my opinion, she needs to internalize the things step by step. If not, it's easy to lose a little bit of perspective. I really hope that she has the right people around, and she will become a big star of this sport for sure.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.