"I could have easily faded away...but somehow I ended up with the trophy," Naomi Osaka says matter-of-factly at press time after winning the 2020 U.S. Open from Victoria Azarenka. The tactics the 23-year-old has gathered over the years has helped her go deep in many tournaments or capture a title.
The last few tournaments that Osaka played were filled with coincidences and great desires to have a win over the difficult time as the coronavirus crisis hit. Last year's Australian Open was a bust as she'd bow to the 16-year-old Coco Gauff in straight sets creating an embarrassment on her part.
The Pandemic hit and for 7 months competition was closed down. No player knew what their mental capacity for winning or physical ability would be when they returned on the competitive court. It wasn't until August that tournament directors decided on having the Cincinnati Masters and the U.S.
Open in the same New York location in Flushing. Osaka did reach the Western & Southern final but she couldn't play due to an injury. "I felt my hamstring after my first match...I get that because I haven't played a match in like seven months...it just slowly started getting worse," Osaka gave reason as to missing the Cincinnati title round.
The trophy was handed to Victoria Azarenka as Osaka rested up for the U.S. Open.
Naomi Osaka will chase her 4th Grand Slam title in Melbourne
It would be ironic for the young Japanese to participate at the Open and make it to the final with who else but Victoria Azarenka again.
The first set didn't go well for Osaka who lost miserably as she would blank out on her strategies and Azarenka played a brilliantly dominant set. But it was in the middle of the 2nd set, Osaka would zone in and felt she had to make her move now or else.
She had said she thought "Don't lose 6-1, 6-0...give her a slight run for her money." This is what exactly the young Japanese did. It was her 'three times the charm' mantra that she sealed her third grand slam in a few years.
She would claim the 2018 U.S. Open, the Australian Open of 2019 and now the 2020 U.S. Open. It is her tennis weapons that has stymied most of her opponents and in commentating the Open final, Lindsay Davenport had mentions "..That big weapon: the serve and the forehand," was the major tactics in the Azarenka match that Osaka showed.
Brett Haber, the commentaor working with Davenport also mentions another tactic of the Japanese as having "another brutal baseline exchange" with Azarenka. It is with a strong philosophy that the 2-time U.S. Open winner mentioned "I focus on what I can control on the tennis court.
That's what I did last time and that's what I did this time." Opponents are finding it difficult to break her code of concentration to gather theirs and get a win off of her. The 23-year-old is still grounded and going through the Pandemic, living 'in a bubble' has made her deal with unusual playing situations.
She was fortunate enough to capture a grand slam out of the entire experience and affirms that "The more times I win grand slams I guess I will be able to celebrate better." She's looking forward to playing at the Tokyo Olympics in July that was postponed from last year.
This will be her maiden appearance at any Olympics and hopes to do well there. She is proud of her three grand slams titles, 3 other titles and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world. She's also been No. 1 on the WTA tour for 25 weeks.
Naomi Osaka feels confident that she can't lose coming in fully prepared and experience-wise to such a spectacular event with extraordinary athletes.