In the final of Flushing Meadows, the Japanese won the Belarusian Viktoria Azarenka. A competitive game ensues – with a gripping final phase.
Naomi Osaka keeps her clean sheet in Grand Slam finals, two years after her first title at the US Open, the Japanese is once again Queen of New York. In the final on Saturday, the former world number one won against Belarusian Wiktoria Asarenka after a miserable start with 1: 6, 6: 3, 6: 3 and secured her third title after the US Open 2018 and the Australian Open 2019.
For Asarenka, however, it was the third last defeat at the US Open, losing to Serena Williams in 2012 and 2013. In the same years, she won her only two Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open. She was then thrown back from injuries and crises, and after the birth of her son Leo in 2016, she went into a custody dispute with the child’s father. California, where the 31-year-old lived, could not leave until mid-2018.
The 22-year-old Osaka, who climbed to third place in the world ranking, also experienced satisfaction in New York after a few setbacks. After her two Grand Slam titles, she was number one in the world – but the Japanese could not meet the high expectations afterwards, she did not make it past the second round in the next four major tournaments. “My mentality is very different from two years ago,” she said before the final: “I have learned a lot through ups and downs. I am mentally stronger and feel fitter.”
Osaka started nervous
In Flushing Meadows, Osaka shined not only athletically on the court, but also as a voice against police brutality and racism. For every game in New York, she wore a face mask with the name of a victim of police brutality in the United States. On Saturday she reminded her of Tamir Rice, the student was shot dead in 2014 at the age of twelve in Cleveland, Ohio by a police officer.
Osaka’s coach Wim Fissette, who led German number one Angelique Kerber to Wimbledon in 2018, saw his protégé start off nervous and made an unusually large number of mistakes. Asarenka, on the other hand, was very focused and dominated the game with her controlled forehand. When the score was 1: 4, Osaka threw her bat in exasperation and Asarenka turned over her first set ball after just 26 minutes.
In the second set, everything went back to Azarenka, and she again took over from Osaka to make it 2-0. But the Japanese braced themselves against the impending defeat, immediately got the rebreak. Suddenly, the opponent wobbled as Osaka played freer and more powerful. With another break, she got the second round.
Osaka exuded tremendous confidence, Asarenka held out – in the end, it was the first-class exchange of blows expected in advance. The break to 3: 1 gave the Japanese even more wind in the back, immediately afterwards she averted three break chances from her opponent. Asarenka stubbornly fought on and, after going back to 3: 4, raised hope again. But when she gave up her service, there was no stopping Osaka.
The game to read in the ticker:
1: 6, 6: 3, 6: 3 – That’s it! Naomi Osaka has won the US Open for the second time in her career. At the crucial point, she puts Azarenka under pressure with her own serve and two match points. The Belarusian can still fend off the first, but the second hits the net – the victory for the Japanese. What a combination of both! Azarenka started furiously, Osaka couldn’t find entry into the game, but fought better and better as the game went on, until she found her tennis, dominated the game, and rightly won the final.
1: 6, 6: 3, 5: 3 – Is that bitter for Azarenka! She just seemed back in the game when she gave up her service game. Osaka simply has the better length in her shots, putting pressure on her opponent and securing the point when Azarenka misses a forehand. Now she serves to win the match herself.
1: 6, 6: 3, 4: 3 – And now the Belarusian is back! Time and time again, the forehand now sits down, Osaka offers her something too. Then there was bad luck for Osaka when a net scooter jumps off her.
Get stronger again: Viktoria Azarenka. (Source: Reuters)
1: 6, 6: 3, 4: 2 – Signs of Azarenka’s life – and what a crazy game that lasted more than eight minutes. It went back and forth over and over, Osaka is close to half-time and 5: 1, but then Azarenka comes back again. Strong of both.
1: 6, 6: 3, 4: 1 – That hurts Azarenka! She wants to hit the ball too quickly on service, is too hasty – and so gives away three breakballs at 40-0 against Osaka. Again she shouts out loud “Come on!” Now everything is running for the Japanese.
1: 6, 6: 3, 3: 1 – Strong as a bear from Osaka, getting the next break. With a backhand winner, she enforces the 3: 1. Then she shouts out her rescue – unusual for the otherwise reserved Osaka, but this only goes to show what’s at stake here.
1: 6, 6: 3, 2: 1 – Osaka continues to evolve into top form! With an ace, she gets the 2: 1.
1: 6, 6: 3, 1: 0 – That now seems to be Naomi Osaka’s match. She takes charge with her first service game. Also interesting: when it comes to mistakes without necessity, there is now almost a “tie” – because Azarenka has already made 16 (20 Osaka).
Summary 2nd sentence: it is now a real finale. First-class rallies, it goes back and forth – and suddenly Osaka seems to have the “momentum” on their side. Azarenka becomes increasingly irritated and repeatedly encourages herself. Who makes the decision now?
1: 6, 6: 3 – It goes in the decision set! Osaka gets the next break against an increasingly desperate Azarenka. The rallies are getting better now – also because the Japanese is finally playing with the determination and speed for which she is known. Now her interests also apply, causing problems for her opponent. At the end, there is a forehand winner who wins the set.
1: 6, 5: 3 – Osaka is now back in the game for good! 5: 3 – as it progresses it plays for free, Azarenka now dictates the tempo. Important: First, Osaka serves a beautiful ace, then she gets the point with a winner. The Belarusian now serves against the loss of the set.
Naomi Osaka in the match against Viktoria Azarenka. (Source: Reuters)
1: 6, 4: 3 – That is now very strong from the Japanese. Now she takes Azarenka’s service game, suddenly has two break chances and secures the point on the second try. The Belarusian is hit and made a double mistake before.
1: 6, 3: 3 – Osaka now makes the game much more balanced! She now plays with significantly more self-confidence. Now her strokes, which are the right length, finally fit – and Azarenka almost looks surprised.
1: 6, 2: 3 – But Azarenka again spends her own service game.
1: 6, 2: 2 – And the compensation in the second sentence. Osaka finally picks up the pace, beating his own winners, forcing Azarenka on the defensive – and securing the point with an ace. That should give her confidence.
1: 6, 1: 2 – It’s working! Break Osaka! Now the Japanese provokes mistakes at Azarenka and takes over the service game from her.
1: 6, 0: 2 – And Azarenka keeps handing out the balls great! She easily returns Osaka’s service, lets her opponents run from one line to the other – and gets the next break with the next longline winner.
1: 6, 0: 1 – It continues in the same way. The forehand is too long, the body language is negative – and in return, Azarenka secures the first point with the next winner.
Powerful start: Viktoria Azarenka in the final against Naomi Osaka. (Source: Reuters)
Summary 1st part: Azarenka has reached the final, Osaka not yet – that’s how the 1st part can be summarized. 14 unforced mistakes, only 44 percent winner after the first serve, no pressure, no height, no confidence in the Japanese, who urgently need a sense of achievement.
1st part, 1: 6 – That’s just too many mistakes from Osaka. She served against the loss of the match, but didn’t close the bag at 40:30, Azarenka couldn’t be shaken off – securing the first set with a longline winner.
1st part, 1: 5 – At the moment everything is going too fast for Osaka, the first sentence is almost gone. Azarenka plays patiently, routinely, and repeatedly sprinkles the strong longline. When Osaka throws another forehand into the net at 3:30 PM, she throws her bat to the ground in frustration. But then she comes back and takes the offensive to the net – and just as it seemed at 40:40 that she is now making her way, the next ball hits the net. Then a forehand ends in the off – and Azarenka leads 5: 1.
So far she has been completely next to her: Naomi Osaka. (Source: Reuters)
1st part, 1: 4 – Another break from Azarenka! Osaka doesn’t come into play at all, her opponent just returns as strong as a bear, while nothing works for herself. Again she warps a forehand and gives up her service game.
1st part, 1: 3 – Played simply by Azarenka, who dictates the game, Osaka can only react and is chased across the square by the Belarusian.
1st part, 1: 2 – Osaka is not really getting started at all, cannot build up pressure yet. Also indicative: in the first two games she made six errors without necessity, Azarenka still none. Nonetheless, Osaka pushes her first point with her serve. Then Osaka takes a breath, almost relieved, and smiles.
1st set, 0: 2 – Azarenka puts Osaka under pressure, the Japanese still misses the correct length in the strokes, with a warped forehand she also surrenders the second game.
1st set, 0: 1 – The first break! Azarenka takes the service game from Osaka, the Japanese immediately looks nervous.
Before the match: Osaka and Azarenka are already heating up. We are going to start.
Before the match: The paths of the two finalists to the final:
Before the match: Osaka has excelled in New York so far, not only with her strong performance on the field, but also with her special gestures – the 22-year-old supports the “Black Lives Matter” movement, bearing the names of victims of racism and her mask during the US Police Violence Tournament.
“It’s a great motivation for me to bring these names closer to as many people as possible,” she said. “I’m not sure it gives me extra power, but I absolutely want more people to talk about it.”
Before the match: Viktoria Azaranka – The Belarusian has had eventful years: from the birth of son Leo in 2016 to the next custody dispute to the difficult fight back to the top of the world. Now she is in her first Grand Slam final since 2013.
Before the match: Osaka and Azarenka in direct comparison
Before the match: Osaka, in particular, has special memories of the US Open final – the Japanese won her first major title at the 2018 tournament, in an emotional final against Serena Williams. The American star had a now legendary freak in the dispute with the referee and spoiled Osaka with the celebration of their first big success.
But Azarenka also knows her way around New York – the 31-year-old was already in the finals in 2012 and 2013, but lost both finals: Serena Williams triumphed both times – who, ironically, now failed in the semi-finals for Azarenka.