NEW YORK – Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka and Belarusian Victoria Azarenka will face off in the US Open final after defeating Americans Jennifer Brady and Serena Williams on Thursday at Flushing Meadows.
In a near-empty Arthur Ashe stadium, closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brady, seeded 28th and current world No. 41, led the match for two hours and eight minutes, but eventually succumbed to Osaka 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3.
Osaka, seeded 4th and current world No. 9, landed nine aces against Brady’s 10 and made 35 winners and just 42 unforced errors.
The first set was even, resulting in a tiebreak in which Osaka took control.
In the decisive eighth game, Brady got the first break of the match after overcoming a 30-0 in favor of Osaka and went 5-3 up, before winning the set on serve. Despite losing the set, Osaka began the decisive third holding serve and taking the momentum from Brady, who lost intensity in her game.
This gave Osaka her first break of the match in the fourth game to pull ahead 3-1 and though she also had the chance to have made it 5-1, Brady resisted. In the end, Osaka won the first match point she had.
Osaka improved her win-loss record in the tournament to 20-3.
“It means a lot for me. I kind of consider New York my second home,” said Osaka in an on-court interview after the match. “I kind of love the atmosphere, even though sadly there’s no people here. I really feel like this court really suits me well.”
In the second semifinal, No. 27 seed Azarenka upset world No. 8 seed Williams 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. The victory for Azarenka, who will play her third open final after 2012 and 2013 – which she lost to Williams –, also improves her head-to-head ratio against the American to 18-5.
The defeat of Williams, 38, who played her 20th Open, left her without the possibility of contesting her 11th final and fighting for the seventh title and the 24th Grand Slam title that would have allowed her to equal the legendary Margaret Court as the all-time leader.
The match, which lasted one hour and 55 minutes, left Azarenka with 24 winners to just 17 unforced errors compared to Williams’ 35 and 28.
The first set turned into a real stroll for Williams, who dominated all facets of the game and only needed 34 minutes to win it.
Everything looked like it was going to be an easy ride for Williams as he attempted to return to the final for the 11th time, the third in a row.
But everything changed when in the fifth game of the second set, Azarenka was able to break Williams for the first time in the match. Azarenka made it 3-2 and then held serve at 4-2 before beginning to mount the comeback.
The third set, with momentum on Azarenka’s side, would showcase the solidity in her game from the back of the court, although she had to overcome a 0-30 deficit.
Azarenka, who now has a perfect 10-0 record since arriving at Flushing Meadows to play the Cincinnati Premier 5, took advantage of the first match point and raised her arms exultantly on center court, where she had starred in a historic comeback to end her frustrating run against Williams.