US Open women's final: Osaka-Azarenka set to sizzle

  • Matt Trollope

The women's singles final at the 2020 US Open has come down to a clash between the sport’s two most in-form players.

Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka set up a blockbuster finale after both won pulsating semifinals on Thursday night in New York.

Both are two-time Grand Slam champions. Both are former world No.1s. And both are at their best on hard courts. 

Their match-up has all the makings of a dream Grand Slam final.

“Honestly, like no one remembers anyone but the winner.”
Naomi Osaka

What’s more, it marks a rematch of their recent Western & Southern Open final at the same venue, which failed to happen when a hamstring injury forced Osaka to withdraw before taking to the court.

"I'm actually so excited to play against her because we didn't get to play last week,” said Azarenka, an Australian Open champion in 2012 and 2013. 

“She plays incredible. I watched a lot of it today ... they (Osaka and Brady) had some incredible rallies, she's super powerful. So I'm gonna have to stay strong and have fun. 

“Playing in a final is a blessing, it's a great opportunity."

Azarenka and Osaka are undefeated this year in two tournaments at Flushing Meadows, with both riding winning streaks that have hit double-digits.

Azarenka extended hers to 11 with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory over 23-time Slam champion Serena Williams in the second of the women’s semifinals.

Incredibly, it marked the first time that Azarenka had ever beaten Williams at a Grand Slam tournament, following 10 losses dating back to 2008.

After years of off-court turmoil and sub-par results, Azarenka entered the Flushing Meadows “bubble” having not won a singles match in 12 months, languishing outside the top 50.

And she has not lost since.

"I hope it inspires women to go after their dreams,” said Azarenka, who gave birth to son Leo in December 2016.

“I'm a tennis player on the court, I'm a fighter on the court, I want to go after my dreams, my personal dreams, (and) inspire my child.
“I hope that women around the world know that they can do anything, because being a parent is the toughest thing. So once you can balance that, you can do anything." 

Williams could only complement the rejuvenated Azarenka, who won 11 of the final 15 games of their semifinal to advance to her first major final in seven years.

That was the 2013 US Open, where she came face-to-face with Serena – and fell in three sets.

“I don't know how she stayed positive, to be honest,” Williams said. “That's a good lesson for all of us. No matter what, you just got to keep going. Hopefully she keeps living her dream.”

Naomi Osaka (R), who leads the head-to-head series 2-1, won her most recent meeting (pictured) over Victoria Azarenka 4-6 7-5 6-3 in the second round of the 2019 French Open. (Getty Images)

Another player doing just that is Osaka, who has long said she dreamed of Grand Slam success as a child growing up and developing her game.

The Japanese superstar advanced to her third major final – she won her previous two, at the 2018 US Open and Australian Open 2019 – following a high-quality 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3 triumph over American Jennifer Brady, her 10th match win in a row.

“I feel like my mindset is much different this time around. I feel like I've learned so much through the ups and downs, not even counting the finals, but just regular tour tournaments,” Osaka said.

“I would say, mentally I feel stronger. I feel fitter now. It's going to be interesting to see what happens.

“Honestly, like no one remembers anyone but the winner. That's probably one of my biggest motivators.”