Naomi Osaka: The Classiest of Class Acts


I like all sports, but I don’t really follow tennis, so I didn’t watch the match last night between Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff. I had heard about it, of course–it had been heavily hyped for days–so this morning when I woke up, I was eager to read about what had happened. It seemed the match itself was pretty unremarkable; the number one player in the world did what you would expect her to do against an opponent that was so low in the rankings. But what happened afterwards, that was what was so incredible.

I first read about it, and then I saw the videos, and even just that brought me to tears, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like watching it live. If you haven’t read about it, or seen it, head to the Internet; you’ll be able to find video clips in under a minute, I’m sure.  [Or, just click here:  Osaka and Coco]

Basically, Osaka not only comforted and encouraged Gauff after her loss, but included her in her post-match interview with Mary Joe Fernandez.  [And how she was able to hold it together while interviewing these two young women, I have no idea!]

Naomi was generous and gracious, and Coco was generous and gracious in return. And it was just a really, really lovely moment to see these young women combine their competitive spirit with genuine compassion and respect for each other.

Even though this was a big stage, in fact, it was actually a little gesture–a moment of compassionate attention, consolation and encouragement from a big-time veteran to an inexperienced up-and-comer.  It was unexpected and unnecessary, and all the more compelling because of it.

Watching it unfold reminded me of the importance of little gestures. Sometimes we think that in order to make a big impact our actions need to be big and dramatic, but the reality is that they don’t. Little things, little moments of attending to someone else, are big deals, even when they happen and there’s no camera or audience to see them.

Sometimes sports bring out the worst in us no doubt, but I love them because sometimes they bring out our very best. And last night, we saw the best of the best—and it was amazing.

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