After Tournament Pause, Osaka Reaches Cincy Final, Djokovic Remains Perfect, Passes Bautista Agut Test
(August 28, 2020) Naomi Osaka reached the finals of the Western & Southern Open on Friday at the US Open after a one-day tournament pause to promote racial justice. On Wednesday, the 22-year-old Haitian and Japanese player announced that she would not play her semifinal to support racial justice as the NBA teams did that evening by not playing their playoff games.
“I guess after my quarters match I saw everything the NBA was doing,” she said. “Then I felt like I also needed to raise my voice, too.
“So I called Stu, my agent, and we talked it over. Then we called the WTA, and they said that they would love to support and they were going to push play back a day. So I put out my statement.
“I feel like this is where everyone gets confused, because I didn’t say I was going to withdraw from the tournament. I just said I wasn’t going to play the next day. And today is Friday, and when I posted it was on Wednesday. I think that’s where there was a bit of confusion.
“But, yeah, I feel like it’s been kind of hectic, and I honestly haven’t been able to get that much sleep yesterday. So I’m glad I was able to win today.”
Osaka at No. 10 in the world is the only Top 10 player remaining in the women’s draw. She defeated No. 14 Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-2, 7-6(5) to reach her first Cincinnati final.
There was some cause for concern when Osaka, who represents Japan, grabbed her left hamstring during the tiebreak.
“I don’t feel like I’m being brave,” Osaka said of her actions. “I just feel like I’m doing what I should be doing. Yeah, so honestly, when people say courageous or anything, I don’t really resonate that well with it.
“I just feel like — not common sense, but this is what I’m supposed to be doing in this moment.”
“I’m happy that I’m in the finals. Of course I feel extra pressure now that there is more eyes watching me.”
Osaka will face 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka in the final on Saturday at the site of the US Open. Azarenka stopped No. 8 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
“I think it was a really good, high quality match overall,” noted Azarenka. “I think Johanna played really, really well. Especially in the first set, she was really taking a lot of chances, and some of the opportunities that I had I didn’t maybe go enough for them. But she was really, really strong.
“So I felt that in the second set I was able to manage those opportunities better, step up a little bit. And then in the third set I felt like I was more, you know, in my pace and doing what I wanted to do.”
The woman from Belarus said that she thought about retiring in the beginning of the year.
“Of course I have doubts,” said the 31-year-old Azarenka. “I’m a human being. I think it’s not about not having doubts or being, like, super positive in your mentality. It’s not about that. It’s about how you react to situations, what you do about them.
“For me, it wasn’t much about can I be on that level? For me, to be on a good level, I need to be mentally prepared. I need to want to go to practice. I need to want to go on the tennis court.
“So that was a lot about this. I think that’s what I have been trying to work on is to find myself, to enjoy myself on the court, because I think that was kind of maybe not turning my results into what I wanted before. So I think when you’re miserable on the court, it’s tough to have a good result.”
“For me, it’s really cool to be able to play Vika now, because I played her in the French last year, but I know that probably her best surface is hard court and also my best surface is hard court, so I think it will definitely be a really fun match,” Osaka said.
Osaka holds a 2-1 head-to-head record against Azarenka.
Novak Djokovic fought off Roberto Bautista Agut and had to contend with a neck injury in his 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0) victory in three hours and one-minute match to reach the final and keep his 2020 record perfect. The man from Serbia is now 22-0 on the year.
His win over the Spaniard breaks a string of three straight hard court losses to him, but it wasn’t easy. Djokovic held a 5-2 lead in the final set, but the 32-year-old Bautista Agut won the next four games to serve for the match at 6-5, but Djokovic broke right back and would not let his opponent win another point in the match.
“Very strange match, I must say,” said Djokovic to media. “I don’t know how I won it, to be honest. He was the better player. I just didn’t feel good on the court at all in any aspect of my game and the body, but somehow I managed to pull this one through.”
Djokovic talked about how he had to play a player like Bautista Agut:
“It’s a balance between the patience and kind of control the aggressivity, if you want to call it. When you have a chance, you have to go through it.
“You have to not only move him around left and right but forward, backwards, you know, kind of mix up with the pace and spin and depth. You just have to put a lot of variation in the game. He’s a very consistent player.”
Should Djokovic win the title, he will have collected every Masters Series event at least twice and tie Rafael Nadal in the number of Masters Series trophies.
Djokovic will play Canadian Milos Raonic. The former world No. 3 defeated No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 6-3. Raonic will be seeking his first Masters title.
“This is what I’ve worked hard for with very clear, specific goals and I hope that I can get that step closer and maybe make a difference tomorrow.”
“I’m playing well. I think I’m moving much better than I definitely have in recent years. Maybe it’s been a long time, and I think that’s putting me in better position so I’m able to be more effective and more aggressive earlier. I’m able to play more on my terms and quicker on in the points.”
Djokovic is 10-0 against Raonic.
The Western & Southern Open, normally played in a subrurb ov cincinnati, is being played on the grounds of the US Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the “Cincy” event and US Open together have been called the “double bubble.