Naomi Osaka was stretched in a humdinger of a semifinal before getting past Jennifer Brady to make it to her second final at the Flushing Meadows.
The Japanese number one won 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 to emulate her feat from 2018 when she had gone to win the US Open title. She will now take on the winner of the second semifinal between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.
In a match lasting two hours and eight minutes, both players lost their serve just once apiece and it was Osaka’s solid first serve that bailed her out on most occasions. She won 84% of the points when she got her first serve in, and that tilted the match in her favour, ever so slightly.
The first set turned out to be a cagey affair with neither player giving the other an inch, and the set’s first break point came only in the seventh game when Brady levelled things up from 40-0 down on Osaka’s serve. The Japanese, however, saved the point with some strong serving and the rest of the set turned out to be uneventful, as far as break-points are concerned, as both players managed relatively holds.
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In the tie-breaker though, Osaka got the early mini-break and she took full advantage by holding both her serves to go 4-1 up, and then breaking her opponent twice again to wrap up the set.
The second set looked like it was headed in the same direction as the first when neither player got too many inlets to break the other’s serve in the first seven games. Osaka’s first serve win percentage, however, fell drastically in the second set, and in the eighth game it helped allow Brady get her second break-point of the match.
Brady managed to convert that one after a long rally, and then held her serve easily to take the match into a third set.
The frustration seemed to be mounting for Osaka, who hadn’t seen a single break-point come her way but when it finally did, it turned out to be a decisive one. Serving at 2-1, Brady went 15-40 down because of an unfortunate net cord, and lost the next point to get broken for the first time in the match.
Osaka didn’t look back after that. She didn’t face a single break point, was largely untroubled on her serve and managed to create a few more break-points. While she didn’t convert either, Brady’s inability to get her teeth on Osaka’s service in the third set meant the Japanese was able to serve it out.
The Japanese player said after the match she was quite happy to play in New York which she considered her second home. She added:
“Honestly, I just felt like I was sticking it out, we were trading serves. I changed my return a bit in the third serve and so, that helped I think. It’s really hard. I had flashbacks of playing Kvitova in the Australian Open final, may be that helped.”
“I just wanted to come out and be positive, whether I win or lose, I want to give my 100 per cent.”
Osaka will now be bidding for her third Grand Slam title, having won the Australian Open in 2019 following her US Open triumph at the 2018 edition.