A second US Open title for Naomi Osaka, or the end of a seven-year Grand Salm drought for Victoria Azarenka?…
A second US Open title for Naomi Osaka, or the end of a seven-year Grand Salm drought for Victoria Azarenka? An extraordinary US Open final awaits.
Naomi Osaka vs Victoria Azarenka | US Open women's final | 12/9/2020, 21.00 BSTOsaka to win & over 21.5 total games 3.10 Bet Now! New Customers only. 18+. T&C’s Apply. begambleaware.org.
Osaka vs Azarenka is live from New York on Saturday 12 September, 4pm local/9pm BST
The final that we didn’t get to see in ‘Cincinnati’ will instead take place on Arthur Ashe Stadium for the grand prize – a Grand Slam title – as Naomi Osaka, the 2018 US Open champion, faces off with the resurgent Victoria Azarenka, into her first major final in seven years.
It’s a fitting finale to this unusual but gripping US Open after both women fought their way through a pair of classic semifinals, Osaka beating Jennifer Brady while Azarenka avenged two US Open final defeats to Serena Williams.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
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Osaka vs Azarenka: Head-to-head
Naomi Osaka leads the head-to-head with Victoria Azarenka 2-1, having beaten her in Rome in 2018 and at the French Open in 2019.
Their only match on hard courts was a win for Azarenka, 6-1, 6-1 at the Australian Open in 2016.
Osaka vs Azarenka: Preview
There was a lot of talk about asterisks in the run-up to this US Open, but whoever wins the title will have earned it by playing some spectacular tennis against tough opponents – not least the one they face in the final.
Osaka, the favourite, has never lost a Grand Slam final and has a 5-2 record in WTA Tour finals overall. The Japanese-Haitian player has spoken of the importance of sustaining a positive attitude and that’s been evident; even when her matches have got tough – taken to three sets as she was twice in the first three rounds, by Misaki Doi and Marta Kostyuk – Osaka has not got tight, neither backing off her shots nor going for too much but maintaining an easy, relaxed balance between dictating play and not allowing her unforced errors to get out of control.
Most top players would have lost to Brady, who continues to dazzle in 2020 and who competed brilliantly in her first Grand Slam semifinal. Osaka not only had the weapons to match Brady shot for shot, but managed to stay creative and positive and was the more consistent player throughout; she also showed no sign of fatigue or fading physically, which could be crucial in the final.
As well as Azarenka played against Serena Williams, and she did, Williams definitely did fade physically – although Azarenka’s superb tennis did play its role in that, too. A firestorm of first-strike tennis from Williams in the first set passed over Azarenka without damaging her self-belief, and then the Belarusian went to work, elevating her game in the second set. For a player who is fundamentally a counterpuncher, Azarenka does a very credible impression of a power player through absorbing and redirecting her opponent’s pace, refusing to back off from the baseline and taking the ball incredibly early. She also served very, very well; the most vulnerable shot in her arsenal looked rock solid under extreme pressure.
The head-to-head isn’t too helpful in this one. It’s tempting to conclude that if Osaka can beat Azarenka on clay, she can certainly do it on hard courts, a surface on which Osaka is much more comfortable; but Azarenka in 2018-19 was not playing anything like the Azarenka of this fortnight. She’s playing like the Azarenka of 2016, who thumped Osaka 6-1, 6-1; but then Osaka in 2016 was not the player she has become over the past few years. My instinct is that power – offensive, point-ending shots – will generally trump defense, and that Azarenka’s serve will at some point let her down. But Azarenka is playing too well not to make the match a decent length.