US Open Day 11: Osaka to meet Azarenka in final

  • Matt Trollope

Naomi Osaka moved into her second US Open final in three years after an intense three-set victory over Jennifer Brady. 

There she will meet Victoria Azarenka, who come from a set down to upstage 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams for the first time ever at a major tournament. 

Earlier on Thursday, Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares were crowned men’s doubles champions, while the wheelchair tennis events got underway at Flushing Meadows.

Azarenka breaks through against Williams

Former world No.1 Azarenka entered her blockbuster semifinal against Williams trailing 4-18 in the head-to-head series – and a lopsided 0-10 in Grand Slam tournaments.

Yet even despite a rusty start against an incredible Williams, who stormed through the opening set for the loss of just one game, Azarenka did not waver.

Victoria Azarenka celebrates her semifinal victory over Serena Williams, which sets up US Open final against Naomi Osaka - a re-match of the recent Western & Southern Open final, which was not played due to Osaka's hamstring injury. (Getty Images)

In an exceptionally intense battle, Azarenka wrested control of the match in the second set, during which she hit 12 winners while committing just a single unforced error. 

Early in the third, with Williams ahead 1-1, 40-0, Azarenka levelled at deuce with a winner, when at that point Williams appeared to hurt her left ankle and required a medical time out to apply more tape.

Thankfully, she seemed unimpeded when play resumed, yet Azarenka simply had too much momentum; she won 11 of the final 15 games to triumph 1-6 6-3 6-3, a result sending her through to her first major final in seven years.

Osaka back in the final

A US Open champion in 2018, Osaka sealed a place in her third Grand Slam final with a 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3 win over the 28th-seeded Brady.

In a match of the highest quality, the two women traded powerful blows for more than two hours, combining for 70 winners against just 42 unforced errors.

Osaka erred just four times in the first set, which she won in a tiebreak after Brady’s came off its impressive level. Yet the American rebounded in the second, scoring the first break of the match in the eighth game and sending the semifinal to a decider.

There, Osaka arrived at 1-2, 15-40 thanks to a winning net cord, and broke when Brady misfired long on the next point to take a 3-1 lead.

Loosening up and gaining in confidence, Osaka powered to victory on the back of 16 third-set winners to end the impressive run of the world No.41.

Pavic, Soares crowed champions

In the day’s opening match at Ashe, the unseeded duo of Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares combined to win the US Open men’s doubles title over No.8 seeds Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic.

One break in each set was all the Croatian-Brazilian team required to close out a 7-5 6-3 victory. 

Pavic and Soares teamed up in mid 2019, winning their first title together at the Shanghai Masters.

This marks the second Grand Slam title for Pavic – a former world No.1 doubles player who won the AO 2018 doubles title with Oliver Marach – and the third for Soares, who also won the US Open in 2016 with Jamie Murray.

“Feels amazing. A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam,” Soares said. “That's why we practiced. That's why we play.”

Top wheelchair seeds begin with wins

Shingo Kunieda kicked off his men’s singles campaign on Armstrong with a 6-3 6-2 triumph over Nicolas Peifer of France.

Kunieda, who triumphed at AO 2020, was joined in the winner’s circle by second seed Gustavo Fernandez, a 6-4 6-1 victor over Stephane Houdet. 

Another reigning Australian Open champion, Dylan Alcott, was a winner on Thursday in the quad singles event; the No.1 seed beat Dutchman Sam Schroder 6-2 6-4.

In the women’s singles, top seed Diede De Groot opened her tournament with a straight-sets win over Jordanne Whiley, as did AO 2020 champ Yui Kamiji, a 6-2 7-6(5) winner over fellow Japanese player Momoko Ohtani.

Tweet of the day

Like tennis fans around the world, three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters was captivated by the incredible women's semifinal action on Thursday night. 

Quotes of the day

"(On) the road to the final, you have to beat the best players, and definitely today was that day. I dug myself in a big hole – I mean, she dug me in a big hole in the first set. I had to climb may way out of there one by one, and I'm very happy that I've been able to turn it around, because it wasn't easy.”
- Victoria Azarenka

"I just felt like I was sticking it out. It felt like we were trading serves ... honestly I had flashbacks of playing Kvitova in the Australian Open (2019) final. So I don't know, maybe that experience helped me out today?"
- Naomi Osaka

“It's obviously disappointing. At the same time, you know, I did what I could today. I feel like other times I've been close and I could have done better. Today I felt like I gave a lot. I'm definitely going to be going to Paris.”
- Serena Williams, after losing her US Open semifinal, sets her sights on Roland Garros.

“I think I'm just proud of my effort, that I treated each match as, you know, the same, came in with the same mentality. The only goal I had was just to compete on every single point. I felt like that's what I did. I'm leaving here pretty proud.”
- Jennifer Brady, a Grand Slam semifinal debutant.

Stat of the day

Osaka has not lost a match since resuming her season following the sport's coronavirus-related suspension. 

The Japanese star improved her winning streak to 10 thanks to her semifinal victory over Brady, and she has now won 16 of her past 17 US Open matches, dating back to 2018. 

Yet Azarenka’s winning streak is even better; following her opening-round Lexington loss to Venus Williams, the Belarusian has now won 11 matches in a row.

One of those streaks will come to an end in Saturday's women's final.

Day 12: Ones to watch

Men’s semifinal action will take centre stage on Friday, with the heavyweight clash between second and third seeds Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev following the first semifinal between Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta.

There is an incredible amount to play for in New York, with all four semifinalists seeking their first ever Grand Slam title.

ORDER OF PLAY: US Open Day 12

The Arthur Ashe Stadium schedule opens with the women’s doubles final, in which No.3 seeds Nicole Melichar and Yifan Xu take on the unseeded combination of Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva.

Wheelchair action continues at Louis Armstrong Stadium and Courts 11 and 12, with defending singles champions Alfie Hewett (men’s), De Groot (women’s) and Andy Lapthorne (quads) all in action.

Lapthorne faces world No.1 Dylan Alcott in a rematch of their 2019 final in New York.