Naomi Osaka will take on Victoria Azarenka in her second US Open final in three years even as one of the two player will end the evening by pocketing their third Grand Slam title. Here’s a lowdown on what has gone about for Osaka and Azarenka and how they got to the final of this US Open.
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Osaka Stretched Multiple Times But Mentally Far Superior
There were various times in the tournament Osaka was stretched to a third set, having allowed the opponent a window of an opportunity which was taken. Each time, however, Osaka came through those testing times, hung in there and marched on to the next round.
It started off with a three-setter in the first round against Misaka Doi, a fellow Japanese player and a three-time WTA title winner. Osaka pocketed the first set easily but lost her focus in the second to lose 7-5 before coming back to wrap up the first round in three sets.
Osaka admitted she was nursing her hamstring issue which had forced her to pull out of the final at the Cincinnati Open against Azarenka but it was getting better.
Which was good news as she came through against a potentially dangerous Camila Giorgi without any trouble, winning 6-1, 6-2 in the second round. We will hear a lot of Marta Kostyuk in time to come, one can be sure, and the 18-year-old Ukrainian showed why by giving Osaka a run for her money in round three.
Again, like in her opener, Osaka lost the second set in a close fashion before wrapping up the third 6-2.
Her first real test was expected to be Anett Kontaveit but the opponent’s excellent matter too much for Osaka – if she herself is on song, nothing else matters. And that resulted in another straight-set drubbing in favour of the Japanese player, winning 6-3, 6-4.
Kontaveit had started the encounter at odds of 17/10 to win the match, the shortest anyone has started in the six rounds against Osaka. And yet, she proved to be no match.
That scoreline was repeated in the quarterfinal when Osaka sent Shelby Rogers packing before facing her toughest match of the tournament. That came in the semifinal against Jennifer Brady, a player who had come into the match on the back of a string of straight-set wins.
And Brady came the closest to beating Osaka. She wasn’t broken in either of the first two sets, and the match went into the final set thanks to that. Again, Osaka proved to have the better of the mental toughness between the two and came through in the third set 6-3 to make it to the final.
Osaka’s Road to the US Open Final
- 1st Round: b Misaki Doi 6-2, 5-7, 6-2
- 2nd Round: b Camila Giorgi 6-1, 6-2
- 3rd Round: b Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-7, 6-2
- 4th Round: b Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-4
- Quarterfinal: b Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4
- Semifinal: b Jennifer Brady 7-6, 3-6, 6-3
Azarenka Comes Through Stern Challenges
If Osaka faced a few three-setters, Azarenka’s bigger challenge was come through some of the tougher, trickier opponents on the women’s circuit. Having not been seeded in the competition she was fortunate not to face a seeded player first up, breaking into no sweat beating Barbora Haas and dropping just three games.
That, however, was the first and last time she faced a less-than-tricky opponent in the competition because in the very second round Azarenka was up against the world number 11 and fellow Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. It was a match expected to be a hit at the box office – if the fans had been allowed that is! – but it turned out to be a damp squib.
Sabalenka was no match for Azarenka’s skills, and the latter dropped just four games en route the third round.
There she faced a very talented and upcoming youngster Iga Swiatek but again, like the previous rounds showed no respect in crushing her 6-4, 6-2.
In Karolina Muchova, Azarenka faced her first real threat when she lost the first set of her fourth round match and was then tested again in the final set. Azarenka, however, showed her mettle in coming through narrowly 6-4 in the final set.
A 6-1, 6-0 lashing of Elise Mertens, another player, like Anett Kontaveit, who was expected to go the distance, proved Azarenka’s credentials like never before, as she waltzed into the semifinal to take on an old rival in Serena Williams.
A chalk-and-cheese performance to her quarterfinal win came in the first set against Serena, as she got broken three times but just when it looked like Azarenka’s fairy-tale was over, she bounced back to a 6-3, 6-3 win in the next two sets.
Interestingly, Azarenka, who had begun the tennis resumption with a straight set loss to Venus Williams had beaten her sister Serena to win her 11th match in a row since then.
Azarenka’s Road to the US Open Final
- 1st Round: b Barbora Haas 6-1, 6-2
- 2nd Round: b Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 6-3
- 3rd Round: b Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2
- 4th Round: b Karolina Muchova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
- Quarterfinal: b Elise Merten 6-1, 6-0
- Semifinal: b Serena Williams 1-6, 6-3, 6-3