Naomi Osaka Wins US Open for Third Major Title
(September 12. 2020) NEW YORK – No. 4 seed Naomi Osaka came back from a set and a break deficit to beat two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win her second US Open trophy and third major title on Saturday. It had been seven years since Azarenka had been in a major final. This was supposed to be the final of the Western & Southern Open two weeks ago, which was played at the US Open site due to the creation of a player bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Osaka withdrew with a hamstring injury.
Azarenka lead off by breaking Osaka’s serve to open the match.
The 22-year-old Osaka came into the final having been broken only 5 times during the tournament, but the Belarusian broke the woman who represents Japan three times for an easy 6-1 first set.
Azarenka was almost perfect on first serves going 16 for 17 in the first set. She made only 3 errors in the opening set.
After the two-time Australian Open champion went up 2-0, 30-15 in the second set, Osaka started to reverse course.
“Don’t lose 6-1, 6-0,” Osaka told media what she was thinking at that moment. “Give her at least a slight run for her money.”
She hit 16 winners in the set. She won six out of the next seven games to level the match at 1-6, 6-3.
Azarenka talked about how the momentum shifted in the match.
“I think the break, maybe in the beginning of the second set, she started to play better. Caught a few lines, had some really good shots. She was being really aggressive.
“I don’t know if there was just one momentum shift. I felt there were a few moments that were shifting, even in the second set was it game 4-3, I think. It was a really long game or something. Maybe it was 5-3. I don’t remember exactly the score now. I didn’t kind of convert my chances, but I felt like I was kind of changing the momentum but I didn’t really finish it.
“I don’t think there was only one. I think in the third set also I started to come back and stuff. It was a lot of tight moments where, you know, didn’t work out for me today.”
In the third set the eventual champion, broke serve in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead, stretching it to 4-1. Azarenka rallied to get back on serve at 3-4, but Osaka withstood the charge breaking back to take a 5-3 lead, then serving out the match for the win.
“I feel like two years ago I maybe would have folded being down a set and a break,” Osaka told Japanese media. “But I think, you know, all the matches that I played in between that time shaped me and made me or forced me to mature more. Especially all the matches that I’ve played here were very tough.
“So, yeah, I think definitely, you know, I’m more of a complete player now. I feel like I’m more aware of what I’m doing.”
Azarenka is now 0-3 in US Open finals, losing in all three in three set matches. In her previous US Open finals, the 31-year-old Azarenka fell on both occasions to Serena Williams.
It’s the first time the women’s final at Flushing Meadows has gone to a third set since 2016.
The last woman to come back from a set down to win the US Open was in 1994, when Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario did it.
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“I was thinking about all the times I’ve watched the great players sort of collapse onto the ground and look up into the sky,” she said when askeed about her celebration when she went to lay down on the court.”I’ve always wanted to see what they saw.
“For me, it was really an incredible moment. I’m really glad I did it.”
“I would say the thing that I learned was just no matter what happens, in every match I have an opportunity,” Osaka said. “It’s up to me to see the opportunity and to take it or not.
“Yeah, I mean, for me, I feel like everything sort of pushed me to be better. I think I played some really good tennis this week, and I can be happy about that. I also think, you know, everything off the court was definitely building up. I had some moments where I was very stressed out. Being inside the bubble, you can’t even go out. It was definitely a little bit sad sometimes.
“But I think all in all it’s the person that’s very mentally strong. For me, it’s one step forward because I always wanted to be that type of person.”
Osaka is now 3-0 in major finals and becomes the 20th woman in the Open Era to win three or more majors. She improves her record against Azarenka to 3-1.
Azarenka became the fifth unseeded player to reach the US Open final, which includes 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, 2015 Roberta Vinci, 2009 winner Kim Clijsters and 1997 Venus Williams.
Azarenka said that she was close to retiring this year: “I will say that I was ready to stop definitely. I said that before. I haven’t touched my racquet for five months. I was really not planning on coming to play until I had my personal issues resolved. So I never really made the final decision because I was going to do that after.
“So it was pretty close. But what kept me in the game is my desire to go after what I want. That’s pretty much it.”
“I think it’s definitely been a great three weeks of tennis,” Azarenka added. “I haven’t had such results in quite a long time, so I’m very excited for it. Today, it’s a loss. As I said, it doesn’t change for me much. Of course, I would have loved to win today. It is what it is.
“I gave everything that I could today on the court. It didn’t come my way. But I’m very proud of the last three weeks that I’ve been here. I felt that I progressed a lot. I’ve played a lot of great matches. I felt that I’ve tested myself physically, mentally on very difficult stages.
“It’s been great. I’m very proud of myself. I want to continue to keep going the same way, enjoy myself. As I said, it was a lot of fun for me to play, to be in the final of the US Open. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”
Kind of emotional about Naomi’s win. Black women are trying to heal themselves, their families, their communities, and are still expected to show up and serve as an inspiration all while fighting everyday to prove that we deserve better. We salute you @naomiosaka. #USOpen pic.twitter.com/1ZmSELmtp8
— LaChina Robinson (@LaChinaRobinson) September 12, 2020
During the tournament, Osaka came out for each of her matches wearing a mask with the name of a different Black person who died either in the custody of police or vigilantes. For her it was a teaching moment for others: “I feel like for me I learn more through experiences. Everyone sort of thinks they know, or I actually don’t want to know how they’re feeling or how they felt during the process. For me, I feel like sharing stories and hearing people’s experiences is very valuable.”
She did not wear a mask during the trophy ceremony because she was told not to by tournament officials.
Both women will rise in the rankings, with Osaka moving up to No. 3 and Azarenka will rise to No. 14.
this is crazy. pic.twitter.com/r3BBW0Elng
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) September 13, 2020
“This was fun, so I hope to see you guys again soon.”
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 12, 2020