After the rains of Labor Day at Flushing Meadows, Tuesday saw the heat turned up on and off the court on day nine of the US Open.

As the mercury rose to leave spectators either basking in the sun or seeking shade, there were some scorching displays in the quarter-finals of the men's and women's singles.

Serena Williams needed only 44 minutes to see off Wang Qiang and reach the last four, while Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer thrilled the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd with an epic that ended with the 20-time grand slam champion being knocked out by the man once known as 'Baby Fed'.

Omnisport's man on the ground, Nicholas McGee, provides the details in our daily diary from New York.

 

EVERYBODY'S FREE (TO WEAR SUNSCREEN)

Forgetting your sunscreen in the hot weather is a nightmare scenario everyone wants to avoid.

But it's not big deal if it slips the minds of spectators at Flushing Meadows, as the US Open have them covered.

Forgot yours? No matter. There's plenty of free bottles to go around to make sure you'll tan, not burn.

NOT MUCH EXCITEMENT FOR NAVARRO

Number one seed in the girls' singles, Emma Navarro lost her second-round match on Grandstand to Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia.

As a New Yorker who reached the final of the French Open and the semi-finals of Wimbledon, a more passionate crowd might have been expected to watch the 18-year-old.

However, the heat was clearly too much for one fan, who spent the contest lounging in the shade under the big screen.

THE MAN OF A THOUSAND VOICES

Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, they all have one thing in common. They were all voiced by Hank Azaria.

The Simpsons star was inside Arthur Ashe Stadium to take in Daniil Medvedev's four-set win over Stan Wawrinka.

As an actor with such great range, Azaria must have been impressed with the variety Medvedev demonstrated en route to a place in the last four.

SVITOLINA GOES 360

Elina Svitolina reached the semi-finals on Tuesday by seeing off Johanna Konta.

Svitolina's partner Gael Monfils could progress to the same stage of the men's singles on Wednesday, when the Frenchman will take on Matteo Berrettini.

Monfils attracted significant attention earlier in the tournament with his 360 smash on match point against Marius Copil.

Svitolina was asked about the possibility of her attempting one and, judging by her answer, it is highly unlikely the Ukrainian will be trying it against Williams.

"I have been practicing, as well," Svitolina said. "Actually this morning I did it. Not as good, though. I turn and then I hit."

NFL schedule-makers wasted no time getting to some of the intriguing matchups of the 2019 season, and fans deserve nothing less for the league's historic 100th year.

Are you ready for some football?

"We are thrilled to be kicking off the 100th season of football in the NFL. As a charter franchise, we cannot think of a better way to begin our centennial season by hosting our long-time rival in prime time at Soldier Field," Chicago Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said.

From a throwback Thursday rivalry opener pitting the Bears against the Green Bay Packers, to a modern-day classic featuring defending champions the New England Patriots against the Pittsburgh Steelers to kick off "Sunday Night Football," the league has more than a few treats in store for the first weekend.

But there are plenty more exciting games to look forward to down the road this season. It is 256 fixtures over 17 weeks, beginning Thursday in Chicago and ending on December 29.

Remember, it is a marathon not a sprint. With that in mind… Here are five circle-the-calendar games in 2019:

 

New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams, Week 2

Sunday, September 15

The bad blood is still brewing in New Orleans, so the NFL is getting this game out of the way early. 

It's hard to forget the infamous no-call in which officials missed Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman interfering with Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis in the final minutes of last season's NFC title game. Because of the blown call, the matchup went into overtime, where the Rams kicked a field goal to win, 26-23, and punch their ticket to Super Bowl 53.

Revenge is a concept often spoken about in professional sports, but much less frequently applicable in the regular season on the pay-for-play level.

The Saints, however, undoubtedly will be out for revenge after being robbed of a shot at Tom Brady and the Patriots for the championship.

Baltimore Ravens at Seattle Seahawks, Week 7

Sunday, October 20

The last time we saw Earl Thomas in a Seahawks uniform, he was flipping the bird at his Seattle sideline while being carted off the field with a broken leg in an air cast.

Now, he is set to lead a Ravens defense in need of a voice after losing long-time franchise veterans like Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis over the years.

Baltimore are already building offensive momentum under second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, and it will be interesting to see how he compares to the NFL's highest-paid player in Russell Wilson.

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers, Week 8

Sunday, October 27

Eric Reid will return to Levi's Stadium to face his former team for the first time since he signed with the Panthers last September.

The safety has stayed in the social consciousness spotlight since taking a knee in protest beside Colin Kaepernick, drawing both praise and criticism (not to mention numerous drug tests) since his return to the football field last October.

But the Niners look a little different since Reid last played with them, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is poised for a comeback season after a knee injury spoiled his first year in San Francisco. His new weapons could even help get the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, Week 14

Sunday, December 8

Settle in, because this game is guaranteed to be a treat.

The last time these teams met was the AFC championship in January, when Brady and company battled at a roaring Arrowhead Stadium for a narrow 37-31 overtime win to advance to Super Bowl LIII.

The teams had built up excitement during their high-scoring regular-season thriller last October when the they combined for 946 total yards and 30 points in the fourth quarter alone before New England sealed a 43-40 victory on a last-second field goal.

Is this Playoff Preview v.2? Maybe.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets, Week 16

Sunday, December 22

Le'Veon Bell's departure was not quite as loud as Antonio Brown's, but the Steelers certainly suffered without their star running back, especially after fellow rusher James Conner went down with an injury late last season.

To Conner's credit, he filled in admirably for Bell during his holdout as Conner compiled a total of 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns.

On the other hand, it was Bell's locker that got looted by his Steelers team-mates when he opted not to show up midway through last season, and he gets the penultimate week of the campaign when playoff implications could be at stake for his own shot at retribution.

At the start of every NFL season, each team have the same 0-0 record. Combined with surprise trades, NFL draftees, free agency signings, shocking retirements and injuries, September signals the start of something new for all.

It has happened time again — a dark horse seemingly comes out of nowhere and has made a deep impression on that. Remember the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals that went to the Super Bowl, but were 4-12 the year before?

What about the 2008 Miami Dolphins who made it to the playoffs, even though they won just one game in 2007? Of course, the best example is Kurt Warner and the 1999 St Louis Rams, who won the Super Bowl that year, despite being 4-12 a season earlier.

Many eyes will be focused on the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders this year, especially with the addition of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. But what other teams have the potential to go from zero to hero?

Here we break down three teams that could surprise us all during the 2019 season.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is back, Jerick McKinnon has also returned, running back Tevin Coleman now is with the team and San Francisco drafted defensive end Nick Bosa with the second overall pick. Not to mention, George Kittle might be the best tight end in the league now the Rob Gronkowski has retired.

A lot of the 49ers' problems in their shoddy 2018 season (which saw them finish 4-12) were because of injuries. Garoppolo tore his anterior cruciate ligament in week three, meaning backups C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullins had to take over for the rest of the year. McKinnon's knee gave him issues all last season and he is still recovering, but the depth with Coleman and Matt Breida gives the Niners more options.

Garoppolo struggled in his first preseason game but was able to step up and help San Francisco defeat the Kansas City Chiefs during its second preseason game. Garoppolo said playing at Arrowhead Stadium, where he tore his ACL last year, helped shake off any apprehension.

"A lot has happened in the year since then," Garoppolo said. "I thought it would be good to go back there just to remember everything that I've gone through."

On the other side of the ball, Bosa will have a helping hand from Dee Ford, who was traded from the Chiefs in the offseason after a 13-sack 2018 campaign.

As long as everyone stays healthy, the 49ers have all the pieces to at least win their division.

New York Jets

A far cry from their Super Bowl victory half a century ago, the Jets finished last season with a 4-12 record. New quarterback Sam Darnold looked like a shaky high schooler starting for the first time, the offense was sluggish and their third-down conversion rate was abysmal (32.24 per cent). 

But things have changed on the offensive side for New York. Running back Le'Veon Bell signed a four-year, $52million deal with the team and has had a quiet and drama-free offseason with the Jets. Bell also seemed to have helped Darnold gain some confidence and has heaped praise on the young quarterback.

"Sam has all the intangibles, he has the mindset. You can see him — he's a competitor. Every day in practice he literally wants to get better. It's hard to ... it's hard to describe someone that's like that because I'm like that," Bell said during the preseason.

"A lot of people go to practice and you're just practicing. They call a play and you run the play. When they call a play for me, I'm trying to work myself and I'm trying to like really get better at it. And I can see that in Sam. When he makes a throw he doesn't really like, I can see that in his face, 'I could've thrown that better.' You've got to love that about him because he literally wants to be perfect. He reminds me a lot of myself in that aspect."

Meanwhile, Ty Montgomery also was signed to a one-year $805,000 contract. Montgomery especially is intriguing, since he can take on the dual role of tailback and receiver. First-year Jets head coach Adam Gase said he was shocked Montgomery had not been claimed off waivers after the Green Bay Packers released him and envisions him being the perfect complement to Bell.

Montgomery later added that he and Bell work well together, making them an efficient and top-notch duo.

"I think we complement each other," Montgomery said. "I'm more of a receiver that's become a back and he's a back that's sort of become a receiver. Us being on the field together, we can line up anywhere. We can do anything. When he comes off, I come on. My mindset, the way I'm wired right now, nothing's going to change, nothing should change. Our offense should be just as efficient."

Indianapolis Colts

No Andrew Luck? No problem. The quarterback's surprise retirement at the age of 29 could have sent other teams into a tailspin, but the Colts have played without Luck before, although that result was not spectacular. In recent seasons, Luck has dealt with various injuries, and Jacoby Brissett has stepped up.

Colts head coach Frank Reich said Indianapolis are in "good hands" with Brissett, even though he has a 4-11 record with the team when starting. 

"You can just feel his presence in the huddle and on the field," Reich said. "The confidence that he's had, the chemistry with his receivers. We all know Andrew and T.Y. [Hilton] had a unique chemistry and connection. I can feel that developing. That's been very important that Jacoby has taken all those reps."

Brissett had been taking the majority of first-team reps during training camp and working with Hilton, Pro Bowl tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, and running back Marlon Mack, who nearly had a 1,000-yard season last year, despite missing five games. 

The stage is set for Brissett to succeed. As long as the offensive line — which includes first-round picks Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson — stays strong, Brissett and the Colts still have the chance to claim an AFC South title.

A division won by the Steelers in three of the previous four years was left wide open last season as player drama boiled over in Pittsburgh.

The seemingly never-ending Le'Veon Bell saga ended up lasting the entire season, the end of which was overshadowed by receiver Antonio Brown and his apparent disconnect with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

By the offseason, the AFC North had seen one of the biggest turnovers in the league as two-thirds of the 'Killer B' trio was gone from Pittsburgh, Odell Beckham Jr joined Cleveland and Baltimore lost Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle and Brent Urban.

Now, the new-look AFC North appears to be up for grabs in 2019, and expectations are high in an unexpected city looking to end the league's longest active playoff drought dating back to 2002.

"This wasn't no business move," Beckham said of the New York Giants in an interview with Sports Illustrated after he was traded to Cleveland. "They thought they'd send me here to die."

But a little added star power does not mean the Browns are a guaranteed bet, especially with Earl Thomas levelling the field in Baltimore as the Ravens prepare for the post-Joe Flacco era under second-year signal-caller Lamar Jackson. It also does not hurt that he got a new weapon from the Saints in Mark Ingram.

Here is your 2019 AFC North preview.

Player to watch:

Odell Beckham Jr, Browns wide receiver

Beckham's blockbuster trade was arguably the biggest transaction of the offseason, and one of the burning questions entering the season is whether the merging of his big personality with second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield will work. The two have the potential to become a great quarterback-receiver duo because of their undeniable talent, but practice is not the same as in-game action, and challenges could arise when the regular season starts.

There is a lot of uncertainty in Cleveland as to whether this team can work together. But after being slowed down by injuries in recent years, including a hip issue during the preseason, OBJ could be poised for a breakout season, maybe cracking 1,500 yards receiving for the first time in his career.

Impact rookie:

Marquise Brown, Ravens wide receiver

In addition to Ingram, Baltimore bolstered their offense by drafting the speedy Oklahoma standout with the 25th pick. While he has not got as much work in this preseason as coach John Harbaugh would like because of offseason foot surgery, there is still reason to believe he can be a difference-maker for the offense.

"As a rookie, he hasn't had a lot of reps," Harbaugh told the team's official website. "So he'll have to get up to speed quickly. We'll have to be vigilant in what we ask him to do well - things that he can do well. It will be a challenge for them to cover him. He's really fast and he's got great hands. So that's the challenge the other way."

Brown had 75 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Sooners last season and impressed in the two preseason games he played, though he was limited to special teams duty in the final outing. Still, his explosiveness gives Harbaugh and the Ravens reason to be optimistic.

Coach under pressure:

Mike Tomlin, Steelers

Many have questioned whether Tomlin has lost control of his locker room in recent seasons. While the Rooney family does not give up on coaches easily, a change could be looming on the horizon.

Tomlin is just the third head coach hired by the Steelers since 1969 and he is among the league's longest-tenured, entering his 13th season.

His impressive resume includes a 125-66-1 record in the regular season, six division titles, eight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win.

But the Steelers have slipped into dysfunction in recent seasons after long being the league's standard for stability -10 years without a championship has to feel like a lifetime for Pittsburgh fans. Perhaps the ownership is growing impatient, too.

Key matchup:

Steelers vs. Ravens, December 29

These rivals will clash in the regular-season finale in a game that may have important playoff implications. What could be better?

The Steelers and Ravens have met 50 times, with Pittsburgh winning 28 times to Baltimore's tally of 22. But the Ravens managed to edge out the Steelers in 2018 with the superior record for the first time since 2012, which is the same season Baltimore won the Super Bowl.

While the game will likely come down to defense, it is worth noting Ben Roethlisberger is 13-8 all-time against the Ravens.

Predicted finish:

It's hard to gauge how these roster overhauls play out, but the division is trending toward looking like 2018 all over again. As the Bengals rebuild under first-year coach Zac Taylor -staying healthy would be a good start for them - expect the Browns to put up a fight for their first winning season since 2007 but fall short as they extend their postseason absence for at least another year.

1. Ravens

2. Steelers

3. Browns

4. Bengals

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs took the AFC West by storm last year.

The reigning NFL MVP had a history-making season in his first year as a starter and ended 2018 near the top of almost every statistical category after transforming the Chiefs and their offense.

Mahomes' list of accomplishments is long, but what is arguably the most impressive is how many times he was connecting with his receiving corps. He threw 50 touchdown passes - five short of Peyton Manning's single-season touchdown record — to lead the Chiefs to the AFC championship game.

But Mahomes was not the only player in Kansas City to have a breakout season. The Chiefs saw tight end Travis Kelce emerge as one of the best in his position. Then there are wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, leaving Kansas City poised to see off the Los Angeles Chargers, the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders for top spot in the division again.

"The sky is the limit for this offense," Kelce said in August. "The guys who have been here, that have been here the last couple years, especially last year; we're taking it up a level that we have in years past. You can just tell from the coaches’ excitement to their attention to detail, to how guys are reacting to their coaching. This team is going to be awesome and we're going to have a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball."

However, the Chiefs potential 2019 run could be halted with some stiffer competition in the West.

The Chargers returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and are still looking to get Hall of Fame candidate Philip Rivers to a Super Bowl, the Raiders added Antonio Brown and the Broncos have another veteran on offense in Joe Flacco. There are loaded rosters throughout the division, which could make for another exciting battle.

Player to watch 

Hunter Henry, Chargers tight end

The Chargers were without Hunter Henry last year after he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ruined his third season in the NFL. Now, though, Henry is back and fully fit. 

He gives Rivers a reliable option after totalling 45 catches for 579 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 and 36 catches for 478 yards and eight scores during his rookie campaign in 2016.

"With Hunter Henry, we can stretch the field in the seams more," coach Anthony Lynn said during June's minicamp. "He's one of the better combo tight ends in the game because he blocks well. So just him back on the field, one of our biggest and better threats, it's going to open things up outside for Keenan Allen a little bit and Mike Williams."

Impact rookie 

Josh Jacobs, Raiders running back

Josh Jacobs was the highest-rated running back of the entire 2019 draft class and already has high expectations coming out of Alabama as the 24th overall pick. His size and power have been enough to impress quarterback Derek Carr.

"You know I've been able to hand the ball off to some really good running backs. I've played with some fun ones - Latavius [Murray], Marshawn [Lynch], Doug [Martin], and that's just the guys that've carried most of the footballs," Carr  said in mid-August. "I've played with a lot of good backs [and] watching [Jacobs'] vision was really impressive because I have the best seat in the house. I'm sitting back there playing 'Madden' tell him to cut back and trying to run for him. He's right up there with those guys."

Jacobs had four carries for 21 yards in his first - and only - preseason game.

Coach under pressure

Jon Gruden, Raiders

The coach turned analyst turned coach famously said, "If I can't get it done, I'm not going to take their money" last season after re-joining the Raiders on an eye-popping 10-year, $100million contract. Oakland went on to finish 4-12. 

Now, Gruden has some new talent and has regained his footing on the sideline. The Raiders are through the first of their rebuilding years and, with Las Vegas in the team's sights, Gruden has to try and put together a winning season if he wants to start a successful franchise in a new city in 2020.

Key matchup 

Chargers at Chiefs, December 29

This will not be the first time these two teams play. The Chargers and Chiefs will go head-to-head November 18 but the later matchup could have bigger playoff implications. Los Angeles punched their playoff ticket last season with a key win over Kansas City and this final regular-season game could again be crucial.

Predicted finish

It could be a close race to the top of the standings, but if Mahomes has a year close to last season it is hard to see any team in the division dethroning the Chiefs, who have won it for the past three years.

1. Chiefs

2. Chargers

3. Broncos

4. Raiders

The AFC South looked to be shaping up completely differently just a fortnight ago, when the Indianapolis Colts were arguably favourites and Andrew Luck was a likely MVP candidate.

Back then, the Houston Texans appeared disorganised and hopeless to trade Jadeveon Clowney or protect Deshaun Watson. 

But plenty has changed since then, with Luck forced into retirement while the Texans traded Clowney and acquired a potential franchise left tackle in Laremy Tunsil. 

As much as Houston natives love Luck, who attended Stratford High School, fans of the Texans know his decision to call it quits has potentially cleared a path for their team to claim a fourth division title in the last five years.

With all that and much more to consider, here is your 2019 AFC South division preview.

Player to watch

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars running back

When the Jaguars drafted Fournette No. 4 overall in 2017, they knew what they wanted to do with him. They wanted to use the six-foot, 228-pound bruiser to pound defenses into submission, control the play clock and let a supremely talented defense dictate the game. That worked in 2017 as Jacksonville made it all the way to the AFC title game where they lost to the New England Patriots.

But in 2018, Fournette was called out at the end of the season by executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin for indifference on the sideline.

"I am disappointed in the behaviour from TJ Yeldon and Leonard Fournette," Coughlin said at the time.

"They were disrespectful, selfish and their behaviour was unbecoming that of a professional football player."

Fournette cannot be that guy this season. The Jaguars still plan to run the offense through him, and with the addition of Nick Foles at quarterback and pass rusher Josh Allen in the draft, Jacksonville very well could fight for the division title. But if Fournette is not himself that dream will fade fast.

Impact rookie

Josh Allen, Jaguars OLB/DE

No team got luckier in the 2019 draft than Jacksonville. Mainly because Allen was evaluated by many as the single best player among draft-eligible players and he slipped all the way to No. 7 for the Jaguars to take.

He even made it past the New York Giants, who desperately needed help with their pass rush but instead went for quarterback Daniel Jones – and preseason football notwithstanding – that is a pick that could be second-guessed for years to come.

Allen joins an already talented defense and may immediately be the most talented player on it. He has size, he is fast and he has got moves. Adding a great pass rusher to an already dangerous defense is a scary proposition for the rest of the AFC South.

Coach under pressure

Bill O'Brien, Texans

This is a tough one because Doug Marrone very well could be out as well in Jacksonville, but here is the thing: The Texans took a massive chance this offseason by firing general manager Brian Gaine and putting the team in O'Brien's control.

He, and a team of about six, promptly traded Clowney for scraps and made a controversial move in giving up two first-round picks and a second for Tunsil and Kenny Stills. Those moves were widely panned by evaluators, but the fact is now this team's success is predicated on what O'Brien does with the players at his disposal.

His in-game moves have often been criticised and Houston have looked ill-prepared on offense in the team's playoff runs under O'Brien. Now, the team's success is down to him on the field and off it as he is effectively the man in charge of everything.

If Tunsil does not prove his worth and the Texans underachieve, it may be time for Houston to move on and consider bringing back former GM Rick Smith, to start, because while he was afraid to draft a quarterback, he consistently built some of the best rosters in the NFL.

Key matchup

Texans vs. Colts, Nov. 21

If everything goes right for the Texans, they will be in contention for a playoff position toward the middle of the season. Also, by that time, the Colts will have had more than half a season with Jacoby Brissett running this year's offense and will likely be a much tougher out than earlier in the year.

This is a game the Texans need to win because – while the Colts lost Luck – Brissett could very well take Indianapolis to a playoff spot. He's a talented guy and one coach Frank Reich believes in.

"He is the man," Reich said his week. "He is the answer."

Well, Brissett does have to be the answer for the Colts because odds are Chad Kelly is not going to be the guy to do it.

At this point in the season, the Texans could very well be around 5-5 or 4-6. The opening to their schedule is brutal, including games against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Baltimore Ravens and a much healthier Atlanta Falcons team this year than last. The Colts could very well be tracking around the same, so whoever wins this game will have a boost going into the second half of the season.

And with this game being on a Thursday night, it will be easy for one team or the other to get caught unprepared.

Predicted finish

This is a division that is going to come down to the Jaguars and Texans, but there are a couple of caveats: One – the Jaguars go as Fournette goes. If he is the Fournette of 2017, they are the division favorites. If he is the Fournette of 2018, they are out of the playoffs. And two – Brissett will take about six weeks to really get going, but if he goes faster, the Colts could very well win this division. There is talent here, but there are also flaws. It is really anyone's for the taking.

1. Houston Texans

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Indianapolis Colts

4. Tennessee Titans

The closure of the European transfer window leaves Paris Saint-Germain and Neymar locked in an unhappy partnership.

After two years in the French capital, Neymar made it clear to PSG he wanted to move on and his intention to leave was confirmed by returning sporting director Leonardo.

Neymar became the world's most expensive player when he left Barcelona for €222million but that fee, coupled with his reported €700k per week wages, have trapped him at PSG.

Barcelona simply could not afford to bring him back, while Real Madrid were also unable to complete a deal - the Clasico rivals having earlier splashed the cash on Antoine Griezmann and Eden Hazard respectively.

So, what happens next for Neymar, PSG and Barcelona?


NEYMAR

Yet to feature for PSG this season, Neymar will presumably be brought back into Thomas Tuchel's squad. They are currently without Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani due to injury, although Neymar must serve a European ban. Whether he can have the impact the Ligue 1 champions crave remains to be seen.

There is little wrong with Neymar's domestic record, 34 goals from 37 Ligue 1 appearances is excellent, but he has not delivered in Europe. That is partly down to injuries - he has been absent when PSG exited the Champions League in each of the past two seasons - but his impact in the most important games has not been what PSG hoped.

Neymar, having failed to engineer his desired move away, must knuckle down now and cut out the theatrics that have drawn criticism from heroes such as Pele. One of the reasons for his move to Paris in the first place was said to be his desire to win the Ballon d'Or, but the past year has seen him slip out of the conversation.

At 27, he should be entering his peak years. This is the ideal opportunity to prove he can be a successor to five-time winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.


PSG

Leonardo accepted Neymar was effectively up for sale, but PSG were always going to demand top dollar for their prized asset. That nobody could afford to meet their demands should not have come as a surprise, though Barca reportedly proposed a variety of cash-plus-players deals that failed for a variety of reasons. Ivan Rakitic and Ousmane Dembele are among those said to have been offered to PSG, only for the players themselves to reject a transfer.

Tuchel's task is to ensure Neymar refocuses on the project in hand: win the league again, recapture the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue titles and progress in Europe. But one of PSG's best 2018-19 performances, their 2-0 win away to Manchester United in the Champions League, came without Neymar as Dani Alves and Angel Di Maria worked extraordinarily hard on the flanks - a job Neymar is either unwilling or unable to do.

While dropping the Brazilian could prove politically impossible, it is not out of the question Tuchel could come to the conclusion that for some games, for instance away in the Champions League knockout rounds, PSG may actually be a more effective team without Neymar.


BARCELONA  

It was never clear exactly how Barcelona saw Neymar fitting back in at Camp Nou, with their pursuit of the forward reportedly stemming from Lionel Messi wanting to be partnered with his former team-mate.

Griezmann, Messi, Dembele and Luis Suarez is already too many attackers to fit into a balanced team, which helps to explain why the Catalan giants were said to be willing to offload the France winger to PSG.

Messi and Suarez are both 32, so there would have been an element of succession planning at play – even though the Argentina superstar, the club's captain, is a player Barca will never be able to truly replace. Ernesto Valverde, a coach known more for pragmatism than expansive football, may have also struggled to find a role for such a luxury player.

Like PSG, Barca crave the Champions League after a series of underwhelming seasons in Europe. They still look to have an attack that can deliver glory, with or without Neymar.

No close season seems complete without a transfer saga.

This window has seen Neymar take centre stage - and not for the first time in his career either - as we waited to find out his location by the end of September 2. 

Now we know. Despite all the speculation, and even with the media suggesting half of the Barcelona squad could be moving in the opposite direction, the Brazilian forward will not be back at Camp Nou but instead remain at Paris Saint-Germain - at least for the next few months.

The story had more twists than the career of a rollercoaster designer. It was on, then off. Then back on again. Meanwhile, almost as a sideshow while the window remained open, the two clubs happened to start playing competitive games again in their domestic leagues.

Here, we look back at some other superstars who were previously involved in headline-grabbing transfer tales.

 

Steven Gerrard

It is mind-boggling to think how the footballing landscape may have looked had Steven Gerrard ended up joining Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

The local boy who had come through the club’s ranks told Liverpool in July 2005 that he wanted to leave. Fans did not take the request well, burning Gerrard's number 17 shirt just over a month after he had captained the Reds to a famous Champions League triumph in Istanbul.

Having turned down a new deal, the midfielder revealed it had been "the hardest decision" for him to tell the Reds he needed to move on. The lure of working with Mourinho at the Blues appeared too great to ignore, or so it seemed.

Instead, Gerrard changed his mind. "He wants to stay. I couldn't be more delighted," chief executive Rick Parry said in a news conference, echoing the feelings of Liverpool fans around the world.

'Stevie G' ended up sticking around at Anfield for another decade, eventually departing for MLS in 2015.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo has made a habit of suggesting he is ready to move on after winning the Champions League.

The Portuguese superstar got his wish after lifting the trophy for a third straight year with Real Madrid in 2018. He teased his departure in a post-match interview not long after the final whistle against Liverpool, before the confetti was even cleaned up, paving the way for a sensational switch to Juventus.

However, Manchester United were not so forthcoming to Ronaldo's wishes in 2008.

So strong was the Red Devils' stance in the face of interest from Madrid, Alex Ferguson claimed United’s owners, the Glazers, would rather sit a player in the stand "just to prove a point", rather than be forced to make a sale.

The English club made a complaint to FIFA concerning Madrid's public pursuit (no action was taken, by the way) as they stood their ground. Having little option but to stay put, Ronaldo said in October he could see himself staying at United beyond the 2008-09 season.

Yet when Madrid came calling again the following year, the forward finally got his move. United cashed in on their prized asset for a then world-record fee of £80m.

 

Wayne Rooney

Rooney sensationally declared his intention to leave Manchester United (for the first time) in October 2010, citing a concern over the club's unwillingness to spend big in the transfer market.

Following a meeting with the then-chief executive David Gill, the England international released a strongly worded statement that said: "He [Gill] did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad".

Citing a desire to win trophies, Rooney suddenly appeared to be heading for the Old Trafford exit. Manchester City seemed his most likely destination, too.

However, it turned out he just needed to sleep on it. Well, for two nights anyway. Having initially baulked at signing a new deal at United, the striker made a stunning U-turn and penned a five-year contract.

"I've spoken to the manager [Alex Ferguson] and the owners and they've convinced me this is where I belong," he said, while adding his intention to win back the trust of the fans. It may also have helped make up his mind that the Red Devils reportedly doubled his wages.

 

Luis Suarez

In the 2013-14 season, Suarez was sensational for Liverpool, a one-man wrecking ball who so nearly fired them to the title. The Uruguayan scored 31 Premier League goals to win the competition’s Golden Boot, while he was also named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year.

Yet it is easy to forget that the same player had wanted to leave the Reds prior to the campaign.

Suarez believed the club had failed to deliver on a promise to let him leave after they failed to qualify for the Champions League, with Arsenal appearing his next destination. The player felt, in such circumstance, his contract included a release clause set at £40m – and the Gunners duly put in an offer £1 above that amount.

"They gave me their word a year ago and now I want them to honour that. And it is not just something verbal with the coach but something that is written in the contract. I'm not going to another club to hurt Liverpool," Suarez said at one stage.

In the end, he had to wait 12 months to eventually get his move elsewhere – and Liverpool pocketed considerably more than £40m when the striker, serving a four-month ban at the time from all football-related activity after biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup - headed to Barcelona.

 

Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool had barely finished typing out a statement to confirm he was not for sale when Philippe Coutinho e-mailed a transfer request to the club in August 2017.

Barcelona – with money to burn after Neymar had moved to PSG – had seen two bids rejected for the Brazilian playmaker, who had signed a new long-term deal in January but made clear his desire to move on just six months later.

The Reds, however, refused to budge – "maybe we are not a selling club," said Jurgen Klopp, who integrated the player back into the squad when the window closed. However, when it ticked into 2018, the rumours started again.

Having stood their ground previously, Liverpool changed their minds and negotiated a reported £142m price for Coutinho – a huge profit on the £8.5m they spent to bring him in from Inter.

"It is his dream and I am now convinced there is nothing left at our disposal to change his mind," Klopp admitted. In an added twist, Coutinho found himself suggested as a makeweight in a deal to bring Neymar back to Barca before joining Bayern Munich on loan.

Eintracht Frankfurt took Europe by storm last season as they went on a memorable and breathtaking run to the Europa League semi-final.

Spearheaded by Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic, Eintracht were only spot-kicks away from their first European final since 1980.

Jovic, Haller and Rebic combined for 57 goals across all competitions and 41 in the Bundesliga, where Eintracht threatened to qualify for the Champions League before ultimately finishing seventh.

However, the star trio – put together by Eintracht mastermind and director of sport Fredi Bobic – have since departed for Real Madrid, West Ham and AC Milan respectively.

While pocketing a substantial profit, Adi Hutter's Eintracht have been left with big shoes to fill. Can Bas Dost, Andre Silva and Dejan Joveljic step up? We at Omnisport look at the club's new forwards.

 

BAS DOST

The towering Dutchman is no stranger to German football, and he has already made an immediate impact in Frankfurt. Haller's move to West Ham prompted Eintracht to turn to former Wolfsburg striker Bas Dost, who scored a staggering 76 goals in 84 league games for Portuguese giants Sporting CP. The 30-year-old previously spent four years in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg, scoring 36 goals and winning the DFB-Pokal as well as the DFL-Supercup in 2015. And the €7million already looks like money well spent by Eintracht after he marked his debut with a goal in the club's 2-1 victory against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

ANDRE SILVA

The footballing world is yet to see the best of Silva but at the age of 23, the Portuguese striker has plenty of time to establish himself. Silva arrived at Milan from Porto amid much fanfare in 2017 but the Portugal international spent last season on loan with Sevilla, scoring nine LaLiga goals and 11 across all competitions. Silva, who netted 10 goals across all competitions for Milan in 2017-18, started the Rossoneri's win over Brescia on August 31 before being included in the deadline-day swap deal involving Rebic. A two-year loan will provide Silva with a chance for some much-needed continuity at Commerzbank-Arena.

DEJAN JOVELJIC

The next Jovic? After selling leading scorer Jovic to Madrid for a reported €60m, Eintracht signed Joveljic from Red Star Belgrade. Like Jovic, Serbia Under-21 international Joveljic was born in Bijeljina and both played for the Serbian giants. Eintracht lured the 20-year-old forward – who scored eight goals and supplied two assists in 17 league matches last season – on a five-year deal. Joveljic has already made eight appearances for Eintracht this term. He announced himself with the winning goal on debut for Eintracht in their Europa League qualifier against Flora in July.

After months of speculation and reports of legal action, Mauro Icardi's time at Inter is over… for the foreseeable future anyway.

Frozen out of the first team by head coach Antonio Conte, Icardi completed an initial loan move to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day.

PSG have the option to buy former Inter captain Icardi for a reported €70million at the end of 2019-20.

After Icardi was loaned to PSG, Omnisport looks at the timeline of events that transpired at Inter.

October 7, 2016 - Icardi signs a new deal following interest from rivals Napoli.

October 16, 2016 - Curva Nord want Icardi stripped of the captaincy following comments made in his autobiography 'Sempre Avanti'. Icardi claimed that he became "a hero" to his team-mates after confronting an ultra leader following a 3-1 defeat to Sassuolo the season prior. Inter's most prominent ultras faction insist Icardi is "finished" at the club.

October 17, 2016 - Inter sanction Icardi but he retains the armband, much to the frustration of the Curva Nord - who denounce the Argentinian as their skipper.

October 21, 2016 - Paolo Fontanesi, author of the book, says the biography "will be reprinted" following the controversy.

January 16, 2017 - Wanda Nara claims Icardi has offers from China.

March 30, 2017 - Icardi says he "loves" playing for Inter and wants to "stay here forever".

December 16, 2017 - Nara refuses to dismiss the possibility of a move to LaLiga giants Real Madrid. "I do not know anything, I do not say yes or no. Mauro would stay at Inter all his life, but it depends on other things."

April 4, 2018 - Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio says there is no rush on Icardi's contract renewal.

May 13, 2018 - Icardi admits he could leave Inter but only if it is in the best interests of the club.

September 3, 2018 - Nara claims Juventus and Napoli were both interested in signing Icardi during the transfer window, revealing she met with the latter's president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

October 18, 2018 - Icardi says he is happy to stay at Inter. "We will try to find a renewal, but I don't know if it will arrive before Christmas."

December 18, 2018 - Nara says Inter and Icardi are still "very far" apart in contract negotiations amid links with Madrid.

January 9, 2019 - Nara reiterates that a renewal is a "long way off" after Ausilio suggests a new offer is on the table for Icardi, adding a number of European clubs are monitoring the forward.

January 21, 2019 - After Inter chief Giuseppe Marotta says Icardi will re-sign, Nara reveals a new contract is virtually a "100 per cent" certainty.

February 13, 2019 - Icardi is stripped of the captaincy and replaced by goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, before being left out of the Europa League squad to face Rapid Vienna.

February 17, 2019 - Icardi watches from the stands as Inter beat former club Sampdoria 2-1 in Serie A.

February 17, 2019 - Nara later claims Icardi has no intention to leave Inter after losing the armband.

April 3, 2019 - Icardi ends exile with a goalscoring performance in the 4-0 rout of Genoa. Inter's Curva Nord, though, are in no mood to forgive Icardi following his return, insisting he is not part of the club's future.

July 5, 2019 - Inter tell Icardi he is free to leave following Conte's arrival. The player and his agent notify the club of their plans to stay. However, CEO Giuseppe Marotta said Icardi is not part of their project for 2019-20.

July 15, 2019 - Icardi moves a step closer to leaving Inter after mutually agreeing to withdraw from the team's pre-season tour of Asia.

August 9, 2019 - Inter's club-record signing Romelu Lukaku is handed the number nine shirt, previously worn by Icardi, following his arrival from Manchester United.

August 19, 2019 - Nara rules out a move to Ligue 1 side Monaco as links to Napoli, Juventus and PSG persist.

August 26, 2019 - Marotta and Inter express their frustration after comments made by Nara, who claims Icardi has been invited to stay after missing the Serie A opener against Lecce.

September 1, 2019 - Marotta says Icardi is "not a problem" despite reports the striker's lawyer is threatening to sue the club over his exclusion from the first team.

September 2, 2019 - Icardi seals a deadline-day move to PSG on loan, not before signing a one-year contract extension with Inter.

When Sebastian Vettel won last year's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa to cut Lewis Hamilton's lead in the drivers' standings to 17 points, a thrilling title battle between two four-time world champions appeared tough to call.

How different things look now.

Ferrari again had reason to celebrate at Spa this time around, thanks to Charles Leclerc's maiden Formula One victory, a richly deserved triumph for the 21-year-old who came agonisingly close to earlier wins in Bahrain and Austria.

However, it was yet another day of frustration for Vettel, who finished fourth and has yet to taste another race win since his victory in Belgium last August.

A series of errors undermined his challenge for a fifth drivers' championship in 2018, that honour instead going to Hamilton as the Briton finished 88 points clear of Vettel in the final analysis.

If last season ultimately proved a failure, the present campaign has been much worse, with Vettel unable to offer any meaningful challenge to a dominant Mercedes outfit.

Ahead of this week's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari's home race, the German languishes in fourth in the drivers' standings, a whopping 99 points behind Hamilton.

Perhaps more significantly, Vettel's lead over Leclerc – who is in only his second season on the grid – is just 12 points and it is easy to argue that margin flatters the more experienced man.

It would be foolish to write off any man who has claimed four world titles – a tally bettered only by Hamilton, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.

Nevertheless, Vettel will know his past glories with Red Bull will count for little if he continues to deliver underwhelming performances for the Scuderia.

Throughout the 2019 campaign, he has repeatedly made the same sort of mistakes that became worryingly frequent last term. On recent form, few would bet against Leclerc finishing his first Ferrari season ahead of a team-mate he has out-qualified in each of the past six races.

In the news conference that followed Sunday's race at Spa, Lewis Hamilton hailed the Monegasque racer, but in doing so also shone a light on Vettel's struggles.

"It's not easy for any driver to jump into a top team, let alone Ferrari, against a four-time world champion, [with] God knows how much more experience, and then to continuously from race one, out-perform, out-qualify and out-drive a four-time world champion is not easy to do," said Hamilton.

That assessment may be somewhat unfair to Vettel, who has after all claimed more points than his team-mate, but there can be no doubt Hamilton's most difficult battles so far this season have come against Leclerc and Max Verstappen, rather than his old rival.

Vettel's contract with Ferrari expires in 2020 and at this point it is not clear whether he or the team would seek to extend their partnership.

If things do not improve quickly, the 32-year-old is in danger of becoming yesterday's man in a series packed with emerging talent.

It has been a long road back to the top of men's tennis for Novak Djokovic, which will have made another betrayal by his body sting all the more on Sunday.

What may be even more painful for the world number one, however, is the realisation he could be about to lose ground in the race for his ultimate goal: the all-time record for men's grand slam singles titles.

Djokovic has made no secret of his desire to beat Roger Federer's leading tally, which stands at 20. However, his retirement due to a left shoulder injury after being thoroughly dismantled by Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round of the US Open has made that challenge even harder.

Through his struggles with an elbow problem, Djokovic saw eight slams go by without him lifting any of them, with six shared between Federer and Nadal.

That set him back significantly in his quest to take Federer's crown as the greatest of all time, and he will know his withdrawal makes it highly likely the Swiss star or Nadal will be collecting the US Open trophy come the end of the second week of proceedings at Flushing Meadows.

Federer and Nadal will be the heavy favourites to contest the final, with the former having the chance to move onto 21 and Nadal the opportunity to pull to within one of him on 19.

Djokovic does not believe this latest setback to be a long-term issue - he plans to play in Tokyo in four weeks' time - and was defiant when asked in his post-match media conference about his dream of catching Federer and Nadal.

"It's a long road ahead hopefully for me," Djokovic said. "I hope I can play for many more years. I'm planning to. I mean, I don't see an end behind the corner at all.

"Now it's a matter of keeping my body and mind in shape and trying to still peak at these kind of events that are majors and that are the most significant in our sport."

However, keeping his body in shape has proven easier said than done for Djokovic. This was his sixth retirement at a slam, albeit his first at the US Open, and at 32 it is easy to question just how long he will be able to remain at the highest level given that record of durability problems in majors.

Barring a breakthrough for Daniil Medvedev or perhaps a continuation of the Wawrinka resurgence in New York this week, Djokovic's task of claiming the slam record will be a more difficult one going into the 2020 season.

Having seen the career of Andy Murray – who is just seven days younger than Djokovic – completely derailed by injury, the Serbian should have an understanding that his time as one of the best in the world can be brought to an end at any moment.

By contrast, he will also be encouraged by the manner in which the now 38-year-old Federer has been able to extend his time as a grand slam champion well beyond the expected twilight of his career.

Federer, though, has been able to achieve that by reducing his playing schedule. The 2019 season was the first in which Federer has played the French Open since 2015 and he has only featured in 10 tournaments all year. 

Djokovic's insistence that he plans to play in Tokyo despite saying he has been in "constant pain" for weeks indicates he believes he can continue to have a very busy schedule and compete in grand slams.

His body is telling him otherwise.

The 16-time major winner is not one for giving up, which is what made his retirement against Wawrinka all the more surprising.

However, unless he accepts shifting to a lighter schedule is the best policy as he moves into his mid-30s, Djokovic may have to resign himself to the prospect of his moving to the top of the major pile never coming to pass.

Lionel Messi headlines the final three for the Puskas Award, given to the scorer of the best goal of the season.

A panel of FIFA and external football experts selected 10 goals to put to a public vote and three of those remain in the running after seven were cut on Monday.

Barcelona icon Messi is the big name still in the hunt, while Juan Fernando Quintero of River Plate and Colombia and Hungarian rookie Daniel Zsori join him.

The winner will be announced on September 23 at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony and we have the lowdown on each of the three still in with a chance…

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) v Real Betis – March 17, 2019

We have become so accustomed to Messi's brilliance that he makes the extraordinary seem normal, but his hat-trick clincher in March's 4-1 win at Betis was pure genius. After receiving a cut-back from Ivan Rakitic, he caressed a first-time chipped effort over Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from about 18 yards when shooting through a crowded penalty area looked an impossibility.

 

Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate) v Racing Club – February 10, 2019

A former so-called 'wonderkid' who went off the boil before enjoying a resurgence, Quintero has had a fine couple of years. A playmaker with an eye for the spectacular, his free-kick against Racing in the 2-0 Superliga win in February was quintessential Quintero – from about 35 yards out on the right flank, his left-footed strike bent inside the top-right corner in a remarkable display of accuracy.

 

Daniel Zsori (Debrecen) v Ferencvaros – February 16, 2019

Eighteen-year-old Zsori announced himself to Hungarian football in astonishing fashion in February. On his league debut, the attacker met a cross from deep with an overhead-kick just inside the area, picking out the top-far corner in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 win.

Time is running out for clubs across Europe to finalise last-ditch deals but multiple big moves could yet go through.

Paris Saint-Germain are bound to be active players as Monday's transfer deadline forces heavyweights in France, Italy, Spain and Germany to make tough decisions on squad strengths and weaknesses.

Bundesliga teams have until 18:00 local time (17:00 BST) to conduct their business, while the window shuts at 20:00 local time (19:00 BST) for Juventus, AC Milan, Inter and the rest of Serie A.

All close-season movements across Europe's top five leagues will be then finalised when the deadline for LaLiga and Ligue 1 sides is reached at midnight local time (23:00 BST).


Mauro Icardi (Inter)

The Inter outcast, stripped of the captaincy earlier this year, seems set to escape to PSG, but not before another twist in his San Siro soap opera.

Reports in France and Italy suggest the striker will agree a new deal with the Nerazzurri - to prevent him from leaving on a free in 2021 - before linking up with Thomas Tuchel's team on a season-long loan.

That could be become a permanent move if, as is expected, the Ligue 1 champions negotiate an option to buy.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas is preparing to join Icardi at Parc des Princes, with Alphonse Areola headed in the opposite direction.


Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP)

Frustrated in their attempts to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United and seemingly unconvinced by Tottenham Christian Eriksen, Madrid might finally have settled on a midfield target.

Portugal international Fernandes was linked to Manchester United and Tottenham before Zinedine Zidane zeroed in on the 24-year-old, a highly technical player with goalscoring ability.


Neymar (PSG)

The fallout that would come from the forward finally rejoining Barcelona in the remaining hours makes it a deal too important to ignore, even if it is now highly improbable.

Neymar is said to have resigned himself to another season in France but, with Icardi to be added to what is already a star-studded attack, PSG might just relax one or two of their demands.

Tuchel, certainly, could do without a full campaign of massaging the Brazilian's ego.


Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)

Barca's late business is more likely to be focused on what to do with Croatia midfielder Rakitic, who has made no starts and a solitary substitute appearance in LaLiga this season.

Juventus are understood be keen on taking him to Turin and could even discuss a swap deal involving Daniele Rugani, though captain Giorgio Chiellini's long-term knee injury has made centre-backs a valued commodity for Maurizio Sarri.

Rakitic, usurped by Frenkie De Jong at Camp Nou, has been replaced in the Croatia squad, so does that mean he's on the move?

Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)

AC Milan are very close to the capture of a player also admired by city rivals Inter.

Rebic is due to move to the Rossoneri on an initial loan deal that will see Andre Silva head for Frankfurt.

Eintracht sporting director Fredi Bobic and the attacker himself have already confirmed an agreement is in place, meaning only the formalities are to be completed.

Competing at the scene of her traumatic maiden grand slam triumph in front of a crowd predictably and passionately backing a star American opponent, it would have been easy for Naomi Osaka to crumble in the third round of the US Open.

The defending champion and world number one had all the pressure on her shoulders in Saturday's blockbuster clash with 15-year-old Coco Gauff, who comparatively had nothing to lose after again capturing the sporting world's imagination with two thrilling wins.

Rather than wilting at the venue where she had been left in tears 12 months ago, Osaka rose to the occasion in stunning style, delivering a show of class on and off the court that should secure her place as a favourite in the hearts and minds of fans, as well as a frontrunner for the title.

From the start, Osaka played with confidence and ruthlessness, racing into a 3-0 lead. Rather than being overawed by the stage, she rose to it with the enthusiasm of a player with two major titles to her name.

Gauff threatened a comeback as the teenager found her footing, but she was never able to locate the consistency needed to restore parity against a player operating at Osaka's level.

After clinching the opening set, Osaka was relentless, refusing to let up as she condemned Gauff to a bagel in the second.

Osaka got 91 per cent of returns in play, converted six of her seven break points and hit 24 winners to Gauff's eight.

Pirouetting as she won one point to set up a break chance, Osaka operated with more freedom as Gauff faded and the gulf in experience and quality became more telling.

Yet nothing Osaka produced on the court could top what she did after the match, as she persuaded a tearful Gauff into staying behind to be interviewed alongside her in front of the packed crowd.

Both players ended up reduced to tears, but those shed will be remembered as part of one of the indelible moments of US Open history. A marked contrast to those Osaka wept last year as Serena Williams' row with umpire Carlos Ramos overshadowed what should have been the greatest night of the Japanese's career.

Gauff could not have been more appreciative of the gesture, and summed up Osaka's evening on and off the court perfectly.

"For me the definition of an athlete is someone who on the court treats you like your worst enemy but off the court can be your best friend," Gauff said. "I think that's what she did."

Discussion over Osaka's slightly withdrawn nature and lack of comfort in the spotlight has been a prominent feature of her rise to the top of the women's game.

Now the focus has been shifted to her capacity for empathy and her sportsmanship, though Osaka appeared to indicate she would still rather not be the subject of such attention.

Asked if the tennis world needs more "Naomi moments", Osaka replied: "I don't know what a Naomi moment is. Hopefully there won't be many of those. Yeah, whatever I do, I try to tell myself to just do it from the heart."

If she maintains the kind of form she demonstrated on Saturday, there is a strong chance the next Naomi moment will be her lifting the trophy.

Following her wonderful display of compassion for Gauff, the New York crowd that booed as she collected the trophy last year will surely this time be on her side should she prevail again.

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