The final for the US Open is set after a pair of exhilarating semifinal matches. A pair of two-time major champions will go head to head as Victoria Azarenka will face off against young tennis star Naomi Osaka on Saturday for the title.
Osaka was the first of the two women to secure her place in the final, defeating No. 23 Jennifer Brady — competing in her first Grand Slam semifinal — 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3. Just two years removed from her last trip to the US Open final, where she beat Serena Williams, Osaka spoke highly of the Flushing Meadows environment where she could possibly win the third Grand Slam of her career.
“It means a lot for me. I kind of consider New York my second home,” Osaka said after her match. “I kind of love the atmosphere, even though there’s no people here. I feel like this court kind of suits me well.”
And suit her well it did as one of the pivotal moments of the match began with the net helping a backhand of hers trickle over to the other side. What also helped her was a missed call where Brady’s return was called long on a break point, but a replay showed it actually touched the line. The 25-year-old American, however, did not challenge the call.
Azarenka’s victory over Williams later in the evening was a case of a flipped switch after an early breakdown. Williams appeared to be the much better player early on, taking the first set in dominant fashion 6-1. But right after that it looked like the two players swapped energy levels. It was then Azarenka who dominated Serena in the second set 6-3, and then again in the third to win the match 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
For Serena, it was her fourth three-set match in a row and that seemed to take a toll on her body. The 39-year-old had to call a full medical timeout while serving at 40-40, with Azarenka up 1-0 in the third set to take care of what appeared to be an ankle injury. While Williams was able to return to the match and show some signs of life, Azarenka never wavered and was able to keep the pressure on her opponent to take the win. This marks the first time the Belarusian has beaten Williams in a Grand Slam tournament