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Osaka defeats Azarenka to win second US Open

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Raz Mirza

Comment & Analysis @RazMirza

Osaka comes out on top in the battle of two former world No 1s to lift her third Grand Slam title

Last Updated: 13/09/20 12:27am

Naomi Osaka claimed the US Open title with a superb comeback victory Naomi Osaka claimed the US Open title with a superb comeback victory

Naomi Osaka claimed the US Open title with a superb comeback victory

Naomi Osaka battled back from a set down against Victoria Azarenka to lift her second US Open title in three years with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory.

With the hardcourt major being staged without any fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese did not let the unusual circumstances distract her as she produced an battling performance.

I just thought it would be very embarrassing to lose in under an hour so I just have to try and stop having a really bad attitude.

Naomi Osaka on how she turned the final around

The 22-year-old Japanese star, already the highest-earning female athlete in the world, adds another Β£2.3million in prize money to her fortune while she becomes the first Asian player to win three major titles, surpassing Chinese trailblazer Li Na.

She has been a vocal advocate for Black Lives Matter, wearing facemasks during this tournament bearing the names of black victims of brutality and violence.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by a policeman while playing with a toy gun in 2014, was the name she kept for the final while Osaka’s boyfriend, rapper Cordae, sat in the stands with a T-shirt bearing the words ‘Defund the police’.

Asked at the presentation ceremony what message she had hoped to send, Osaka replied sharply: “Well what was the message that you got? I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”

Osaka walked onto the court wearing a mask with the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was killed by police in Cleveland in 2014 Osaka walked onto the court wearing a mask with the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was killed by police in Cleveland in 2014

Osaka walked onto the court wearing a mask with the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was killed by police in Cleveland in 2014

The Belarusian mother of her three-year-old son, Leo, was making an improbable comeback at the age 31 against the Japanese sporting icon.

Azarenka, playing in her first Grand Slam final in seven years, came flying out of the traps to take a 2-0 before the fourth seed found some equilibrium to settle her nerves for an important hold of serve.

Did you know…

Osaka is the first player to win the US Open women’s singles final from a set down since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1994 vs Steffi Graf

Some relentless ball hitting by Azarenka had her opponent tied up in knots and a second double fault from Osaka contributed to a second break of serve.

The error count was mounting for Osaka, the champion in New York in 2018, on Arthur Ashe Stadium and it wasn’t long before Azarenka claimed a one-sided set in 26 minutes, breaking the Japanese star for a third time.

Naomi Osaka vs Victoria Azarenka: Match Stats

Osaka Match Stats Azarenka
6 Aces 3
2 Double Faults 2
61% 1st serve win percentage 59%
50% 2nd serve win percentage 39%
5/10 Break points won 7/12
34 Total winners 30
26 Unforced errors 22
6/12 Net points won 11/16
87/170 Total points won 83/170

Azarenka and Osaka had been due to face each other for a fourth time in the final of the Western & Southern Open at the same Flushing Meadows venue two weeks ago, only for Osaka to withdraw from the match with a left hamstring injury.

There was nothing to suggest Azarenka would reach the fifth Grand Slam final of her career and third at Flushing Meadows. But here she was looking to continue her dominance over the title favourite.

Azarenka maintained her momentum through the first two games of the second set but Osaka broke back for 2-1 and that proved to be a crucial moment.

A few errors had started to come from the Azarenka racket while Osaka, the more powerful player, was able to play points on her terms. She forged into the lead in the set with a break for 4-3 and took her second set point to win it and send the final into a decider.

Azarenka played relentless tennis in the first set but then faded away Azarenka played relentless tennis in the first set but then faded away

Azarenka played relentless tennis in the first set but then faded away

I thought the third time was a charm but I guess I’ll have to try again. Congratulations to Naomi, it’s been an incredible two weeks for you. I hope we can meet in some more finals again. I want to say thank you to all the people who came in in such difficult times and made this tournament happen. I’m very grateful for this opportunity. And I want to thank my team for sticking with me and believing in me. We’re going to have some more fun over the next few weeks. It’s been a long road getting here but this was fun.

Azarenka, also the runner-up in 2012 and 2013

For only the fourth time in the last 25 US Open women’s finals we were heading into a final set. Osaka was involved in the controversial final against Serena Williams two years ago, while Azarenka was involved in three-setters, falling to Williams in 2012 and 2013.

Osaka had not lost in a final set at Flushing Meadows for three years and after breaking for 3-1 she saved three break point chances to dig out a massive hold.

Azarenka dug extremely deep to prevent Osaka leading 5-1, and that prompted a wobble from the Japanese player, but she stood strong in the end to find a way to get the job done before soaking in her triumph by lying flat on her back on the court.

“I always see everyone collapse after match point. But I always think you may injure yourself so I wanted to do it safely,” said Osaka.

Azarenka said: “I thought the third time was a charm but I guess I’ll have to try again.”

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