The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Opinion

2020 US Open: Women's final preview

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Roar Guru
11th September, 2020
0

And then there were two.

After a fortnight of upsets and breakthroughs, it is left to Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka to fight it out for the coveted US Open trophy.

Both players will come into the championship match having defeated American players in their respective semi-finals, with Osaka overcoming 28th seed Jennifer Brady and Azarenka upsetting third seed Serena Williams and ensuring her wait for a 24th major continues.

Azarenka’s victory over Williams marked her fifth career win against the American in 23 attempts, but more significantly, it was her first win against her at a major after ten previous losses, including twice in US Open finals in 2012 and 2013.

It was also the first time she’d beaten her American nemesis before a championship match at any tournament.

The Belarusian was staring down the barrel of a humiliating defeat when she dropped the first set 6-1, but raised her game in the next two sets to deliver arguably her best performance at a major for over seven years and return to a final for the first time in that same period.

Beforehand, Azarenka caused a major upset when she ousted compatriot and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka in the second round, while she had to come from a set down to defeat Venus Williams’ first-round conqueror, Karolina Muchova, in the last 16.

Victoria Azarenka

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

She also displayed her ruthless best as she thrashed Belgian Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals, dropping just one game, which just happened to be one of her own service games, before the aforementioned semi-final victory over Serena Williams.

Advertisement
Advertisement

The 31-year-old is now in a position to end a major drought of over seven and a half years, her last such victory coming at the 2013 Australian Open, where she came from a set down to defeat Li Na in the championship match.

In the intervention, the former world number one struggled with injuries, became a mother to son Leo before Christmas in 2016 and was involved in an ugly family custody dispute, which had a negative effect on her on-court form.

However, the Belarusian has returned from the season resumption as one of the form players on the WTA Tour, winning her first title since April 2016 by capturing the Western and Southern Open, which was being played in the New York bubble.

She didn’t even have to hit a ball in anger in the championship match, because her opponent Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw before the match due to a left hamstring injury.

Still, Azarenka has rediscovered the form that took her to two major titles and top spot in the world rankings, before injuries saw her very nearly drop out of the world’s top 50 in early 2015.

She was then on track to rocket back up the rankings in the first half of 2016 before suddenly announcing her pregnancy, which saw her sidelined from professional tennis for much of the following 12 months.

The Belarusian can now cap off her stunning comeback with victory at Flushing Meadows, which would see her become the first mother in nearly a decade to win a grand slam title.

However, standing in the way of Azarenka and US Open glory is the 2018 champion, Naomi Osaka, who has not allowed the aforementioned hamstring injury to impede her as she qualified for a third major final, and second at Flushing Meadows.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Naomi Osaka plays a backhand

(Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

Osaka was taken to three sets in two of her opening three matches, including in the first round against compatriot Misaki Doi, but has nonetheless shown the form that took her to the US Open title two years ago.

Her victory was sadly overshadowed by her opponent Serena Williams’ embarrassing second-set behaviour and the post-match chaos that followed, and so she’ll want to celebrate a second US Open title in her own right should she be victorious.

The Japanese star was however able to celebrate her second major title, the 2019 Australian Open, in which she defeated Petra Kvitova in three sets in the championship match in much more gracious fashion.

In the intervention, Osaka has risen to top spot in the world rankings but struggled with her form, failing to reach a quarter-final in four subsequent major appearances and having her 2018 US Open title defence ended by Belinda Bencic in the fourth round last year.

She also failed to defend the title she won at Melbourne Park last year when she fell to Coco Gauff in the third round of this year’s Australian Open, and many believed that her past form was behind her.

But since the season resumption, Osaka has also been one of the form players on the WTA Tour and was unfortunate to not be able to contest the Western and Southern Open championship match against Azarenka due to a hamstring injury.

Still, she has rediscovered her title-winning form at Flushing Meadows over the past fortnight and both she and Azarenka will enter the US Open championship match as worthy opponents to each other.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Now that you’ve got the info, it’s time to crunch the all-important numbers below as we get set to crown our second grand slam women’s champion of 2020.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

US Open women’s final
[4] Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Saturday, September 12, 4:00pm (Sunday, September 13, 6:00am AEST)
Arthur Ashe Stadium

Head to head
All matches: Osaka 2-1
At the grand slams: Tied, 1-all
In finals: First meeting. The two players had been due to meet in the final of the Western and Southern Open last month, but Osaka withdrew due to a hamstring injury thus handing the title to Azarenka.
Last meeting: Osaka won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, second round, 2019 French Open

Advertisement
Advertisement

Naomi Osaka’s road to the final
Round 1: defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-2, 5-7, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-1, 6-2
Round 3: defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2
Round 4: defeated [14] Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3, 6-4
Quarter-final: defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-3, 6-4
Semi-final: defeated [28] Jennifer Brady (USA) 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 6-3

Victoria Azarenka’s road to the final
Round 1: defeated Barbara Haas (AUT) 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: defeated [5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-1, 6-3
Round 3: defeated Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: defeated [20] Karolina Muchova (CZE) 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
Quarter-final: defeated [16] Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-1, 6-0
Semi-final: defeated [3] Serena Williams (USA) 1-6, 6-3, 6-3

The stats that matter
• This is Naomi Osaka’s third grand slam final (2-0), and second at the US Open (1-0), while this will be Victoria Azarenka’s fifth grand slam final (2-2), and third at the US Open (0-2), but first on both fronts since the 2013 US Open.
• Azarenka will be the third different opponent (after Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova) to face Osaka in a major final. On the flip side, Osaka is the fourth different opponent (after Williams, Maria Sharapova and Li Na) that Azarenka has faced.
• This is the first US Open final since 2013 to pit two former major champions against each other.
• This will be their fourth career meeting, not counting the recent Western and Southern Open final, which Azarenka won via a walkover. It will be their third meeting at a major, where they are tied 1-all.
• Azarenka is aiming to become the first mother to win a major since Kim Clijsters triumphed at the 2011 Australian Open, and at Flushing Meadows since Clijsters won the last of her three US Open titles in 2010.
• She is also aiming to become the first player to win a major after defeating Serena Williams en route to the final since Clijsters defeated her in that controversial 2009 US Open semi-final (she then defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the championship match).
• A win would also see Azarenka end a major title drought of seven years and seven and a half months, her last such title coming at the 2013 Australian Open. This would break the longest drought between major titles for any female player this century.

Prediction
Naomi Osaka in three sets.

In the meantime, the identity of the two men’s finalists will be decided this morning, with 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta to face off against German fifth seed Alexander Zverev in one semi-final, and Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem to face off in the other.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Carreno Busta and Zverev are first up at 4:00pm local time (6:00am this morning AEST), followed by the clash between Medvedev and Thiem not before 5:30pm (7:30am AEST), with the expectation that whoever wins the latter semi-final will start favourite to capture the title.

Regardless of what happens, we are guaranteed our first men’s grand slam champion born in the 1990s, which will also snap a streak of 63 straight majors won by men born in the 1980s.