Naomi Osaka caused a major flutter by beating Serena Williams in the final of the 2018 US Open to win her first ever Grand Slam title but not before a major controversy erupted during the match.
The American will be playing in her 31st Grand Slam final, whilst for the Japanese woman it will be her first. Williams is hoping to emulate Margaret Court’s all–time Grand Slam singles record of 24 titles, whilst Osaka has just one WTA tournament win to her name.
The omens would appear to favour Williams who breezed past Sevastova in just 66 minutes to enter her ninth US Open Final. She has all the experience of playing on the big stage, and will have the majority of the crowd behind her.
She has got progressively stronger as the tournament has gone on, and is now close to the form she was in before her enforced break due to the birth of her daughter. Williams has also benefitted from a favourable draw which saw many of the top-ranked players in her half knocked-out before she had to play them.
Osaka, by contrast, claimed to be shaken by nerves in her meeting with Keys, and in her quarter final victory over Lesia Tsurenko, yet in neither match was it apparent in how she played.
The 2016 WTA Newcomer of the Year has been one of the revelations of the tournament, both on and off the court, and with her win over Keys, a woman she had never beaten before, demonstrated a big match temperament.
She also showed the ability to absorb heavy ground shots which should stand her in good stead against the power of Williams.
And, surprisingly, history is on her side. The pair have met just once before, in March of this year, in the first round of the Miami Masters, and it was Osaka who won easily on that occasion, 6-3, 6-2.
However, that was when the American was just back after her maternity leave, and was mentally and physically fragile. Six months later it is a different story, and Williams will go into the match the heavy favourite to create history.
At 20, Osaka’s time will surely come, but this time she might have to content herself with the runners-up cheque.
The match will take place on Saturday at 4 pm New York time and you can check for the exact US Open order of play for the day here.