Two years ago, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka played that controversial US Open final, with the young gun enduring all the pressure to lift the first Major title. Twelve months ago, the Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu ousted the six-time champion Williams to steal another home Major trophy for her, keeping Serena on 23 Major crowns.
The American had high expectations ahead of this year's US Open, making a solid start and digging deep against Sloane Stephens, Maria Sakkari and Tsvetlana Pironkova, prevailing in three sets to advance into the 11th consecutive US Open semi-final!
There, Serena faced her good friend Victoria Azarenka, an in-form rival and the champion from Cincinnati two weeks ago. Beating the Belarusian in all ten previous encounters at Majors, Serena couldn't earn the 11th win, suffering a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to propel Azarenka into the title clash against Naomi Osaka.
Williams had everything under control in the first set, earning three breaks and looking good to make another US Open final. Azarenka had other plans, though, settling into an excellent rhythm in set number two and securing the crucial advantage at the beginning of the decider to move over the top and remain on the title course.
Asked about Naomi Osaka, Serena said the Japanese is exciting to watch, enjoying seeing her on the court. Over the last ten days, Osaka was there to follow Serena's matches from the stands, looking forward to competing against the legend in another US Open final but having to wait for some other occasion.
Naomi had to give her best in the semi-final versus the American Jennifer Brady, prevailing 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and eight minutes.
Naomi Osaka will fight for the US Open title against Victoria Azarenka.
Both players had 35 winners and Osaka sprayed fewer errors, breaking Brady once in the decider to move over the top, seeking the third Major crown in the last two years.
There were no breaks in the first set, with Osaka saving a break point at 3-3 and winning the tie break 7-1 to move in front. Jennifer did everything right in set number two, serving well and securing a break in game eight, closing the set a few minutes later to force a decider.
With no room for mistakes, Naomi raised her level again in the final set, sailing through her service games and moving in front in game four before sealing the deal with a hold at 5-3. "Naomi Osaka is such an intense player and exciting to watch.
It's hard to be a fan of her game when you could face her, but I watch many of her matches. It's no secret that I enjoy watching her game. I guess she enjoys watching me, too, I don't know. Maybe she was watching Vika tonight," Serena Williams said.