Thursday night at the U.S. Open played host to two thrilling women’s semifinal matches, as Naomi Osaka took on American Jennifer Brady before Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka played for the 24th time in their careers.
Osaka overcame a very-game Brady, who had been dominant throughout the tournament. In fact, when Osaka won the first set 7-6(1), it was the first time the American had dropped a set in the tournament.
But she responded in the second, breaking for a 5-3 lead and serving out the set to even the match and force it into a deciding third set.
Osaka grabbed the crucial break in the third, doing so for a 3-1 advantage and never looking back. After two hours and eight minutes, the 2018 champion booked her spot in the championship match.
“I didn’t feel like I dominated the first set. I felt like I did what I was supposed to do. I held my serve. I tried to hold my tiebreak serve points. I feel like I did that,” said Osaka. “I honestly did not feel like I was dominating at any time in the match. I felt like there were moments where I capitalized on mistakes that she made or points that I needed…For me, definitely my goal during these two tournaments was to be more mentally strong and fight for every point. So that’s what I’m going to go into the final with. Nothing is going to change that.”
In the final she will take on Azarenka, who outlasted Serena 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 to put an end to her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title.
“I knew I had to step up my game. It was very quick. In the beginning, it was a lot of very short rallies. She served really, really well,” said Azarenka. “I felt like I was kind of out of range. I wasn’t finding my serve. Second serve was getting killed. I knew I had to get into the rallies, I needed to step up with my agressivity, play a little smarter, play with a little bit more width of the court and bring the intensity up. I felt that intensity was important today, to bring it up. I’m glad that that worked out for me.”
The Azarenka-Osaka showdown is a rematch of what was supposed to be the finals of the Western & Southern Open earlier in the bubble, a match that Osaka withdrew due to injury. Not counting that walkover, Osaka leads the head-to-head 2-1 with the most recent match coming on the clay last year at the French Open.
The final is scheduled for Saturday at 4:00 p.m.