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Serena Williams vs Osaka US Open Final Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Serena seeks record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 8 Sep 2018
  • Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka is live from New York on Saturday, 8 September from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST
  • Serena lost to Osaka in their only previous meeting in Miami this year
Serena Williams. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Serena Williams will attempt to match Margaret Court record of 24 Grand Slam titles when she takes on Japanese sensation, Naomi Osaka in the final of the 2018 US Open on Saturday. 

Williams’s mark of 23 major titles is already an Open Era record, one clear of the second most successful woman, Steffi Graf, but she will move level with Court on the all-time list if she pulls off the win on Saturday. 

The 36-year-old is also looking to win her seventh US Open title, which will break her tie with Chris Evert for the most successful woman at Flushing Meadows in the Open Era.

While Serena chases all these records, her opponent, Osaka is in completely uncharted territory, as she had never previously gone beyond the fourth round of a Slam prior to the 2018 US Open. Can the young gun upset the legend on Saturday, or will the great Serena Williams take another step into tennis immortality? 

Serena has been so good over the years that it's easy to overlook the magnitude of what she has done in the last few months. Approximately a year ago, Williams was having a baby, and as she put it, was 'literally fighting for her life' due to complications afterwards, but here she is, at 36 years old, competing in a second straight Grand Slam final. This is just her seventh tournament since returning to the tour without any ranking in March, and she is already guaranteed a spot in the top 20, regardless of the outcome of Saturday's final. She will move up to 11th if she beats Osaka. 

What's scary, for her opponents, that is,  is that she's definitely going to get better! 

"...this is just the beginning of my return. I'm still on the way up. There's still much more that I plan on doing. You don't reach your best a couple months in"

"I'm still waiting to get to be the Serena that I was, and I don't know if I'll ever be that physically, emotionally, mentally... But I'm on my way. I feel like I still have a ways to go. Once I get there, I'll be able to play even hopefully better."

Williams has saved her best for Slams since her return- she has not done much outside the majors, but she has amassed a terrific 15-1 record at the Grand Slams, including a fourth-round withdrawal at Roland Garros due to a shoulder problem, a final at Wimbledon, where she was beaten by Angelique Kerber, and now, another final at the US Open. 

She has barged through the draw in New York, dropping just one set in advancing her ninth final at the tournament. Williams hardly broken sweat in dispatching Magda Linette, Carina Witthoeft and sister, Venus in the opening three rounds, and while she dropped her first set of the tournament against Kaia Kanepi in the round of 16, she was dominant in the other two sets, including a 6-0 set, where she played arguably her best tennis of the tournament. Her quarter final against Karolina Pliskova was expected to be challenging, and it was for a brief period at the start, but once Serena got into her groove, she recovered from a 1-3 deficit to ease to a 6-4 6-3 victory, avenging her 2016 semi-final loss to the same opponent. 

Williams has suffered a few US Open semi-final heart-aches in the past- she has lost three, including her last two against Roberta Vinci and Pliskova in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and Thursday's semi-final against the crafty Anastasija Sevastova threatened to pose more problems when the Latvian broke in the opening game of the match. 

But that was as good as it got for Sevastova, who was appearing in her first Grand Slam semi-final. 

Serena did not face another break point for the remainder of the match, as she elevated her game to a whole new level.She rifled 31 winners past Sevastova,  backing up her power from the back of the court with equal competence at the net, where she won 24 of 28 points. She closed out the 6-3 6-0 victory in just over an hour, moving on to her 31st major final, where she will be challenged by Naomi Osaka. 

Osaka's run has been surprising, especially because she's gone all the way to the final, but it wasn't exactly out of the blue, as the Indian Wells champion was always bound to make a Grand Slam run sooner rather than later, and what a fortnight this has been! 

Naomi Osaka. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Like her idol, Serena, Osaka has dropped just one set in this tournament, in her difficult Round of 16 meeting with Aryna Sabalenka, but she has absolutely crushed the rest of the opposition. Osaka dropped just seven games in the opening three rounds against Laura Siegemund, Julia Glushko and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, whom she beat 6-0 6-0 to take her tally of consecutive games to 22. That streak was broken by Sabalenka, the New Haven champion who was having a terrific summer, but Osaka outlasted the Belurusian to advance into the quarter finals of a major for the first time, amidst emotional scenes in the end of the match. 

Osaka was back in business in the last eight, blitzing Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-1 before taking down Madison Keys 6-2 6-4 in the semis. Beyond her devastating power, Osaka has also exhibited great poise and composure over the US Open fortnight. She played the big points superbly against Keys, saving a remarkable 13 of 13 break points against the big-hitting American, while being ruthlessly efficient in converting three of the four opportunities that came her way. 

Just like she did at Indian Wells, Osaka has once again shown what a dangerous player she is. The next challenge after this, regardless of what happens in the final is to find some year-round consistency, and carve a niche around the top order of the women's game. Apart from Indian Wells, she also made the semi-finals in Nottingham, quarter finals in Dubai, and the fourth round of the Australian Open in her other notable results for the season. She didn't play well in the lead-up tournaments to the US Open, losing her opening matches in Montreal and Cincinnati and arriving New York on a three-match losing streak, but she has got it right at Flushing Meadows, and now stands one match away from an improbable first major title. 

Osaka defeated Serena Williams in straight sets in their only previous meeting back in Miami, but that was under very different circumstances. Osaka was fresh off her Indian Wells title, while Serena was playing just her second tournament in her comeback from maternity leave. This is clearly a different Serena, who has stepped forward from the uncertainty of those early days into the assured, dominant  Grand Slam champion we are more used to. 

Osaka has spoken glowingly about Serena being her idol, and how the prospect of facing the American inspired her through her semi-final, but her competitiveness on Saturday will hinge on how well she handles the nerves and  emotions of taking on her heroine in her first Grand Slam final.

"Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam. Just the fact that it's happening, I'm very happy about it..."

"At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. I shouldn't really think of her as my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent."

She has said all the right things, as she often always does, but can she keep it all together and execute on the court? If she does, she has got enough about her to really trouble Serena.

However, this is the great Serena Williams we're talking about here-  a sporting colossus,  arguably the greatest champion the sport has ever seen, who also happens to be in terrific form at the moment. 

Surely this legend will have too much for the upstart on the other side of the net? 

Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka is live from New York on Saturday, 8 September from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify 

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Serena Williams vs Osaka US Open Final Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Serena seeks record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title

Serena Williams takes on Japanese young gun, Naomi Osaka in the US Open final on Saturday. Can Serena match Margaret Court's all-time Grand Slam record? Read our previews, preview and stream the match live online.

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