Williams will come up against Japan’s 20-year-old superstar Naomi Osaka – the first Japanese woman to reach a grand slam final.
After reaching her maiden Grand Slam final Osaka spoke of realising a dream in booking a meeting with Williams, in what has already been a breakthrough season. Sevastova broke her serve in the first game of the match; Williams upped the velocity of her groundstrokes, but Sevastova played stubborn defense. Her coach is Sascha Bajin, who once was in Williams’ camp.
In fact, win or lose on Saturday, it feels as if this is a coronation of sorts for Osaka as tennis’ next big thing.
But Williams will represent the stiffest test yet for Osaka after also cruising mostly unchallenged into the final, her only real blip coming in the fourth round when she needed three sets to get by Estonian Kaia Kanepi. She holds both Japanese and American citizenship. Unfiltered, unabashed and unique, Osaka speaks with a child-like wonder where the word “like” is never more than a couple of sentences away. I just have to take it one step at a time, do the best that I can.
Celebrity spotting: “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, “Orange is the New Black” star Uzo Aduba, Billie Jean King, former National Basketball Association player Jason Collins and broadcaster Robin Roberts were seen among the crowd on Thursday.
Osaka has beaten Williams in the pair’s only match against each other – at Miami earlier this year.
Saturday’s U.S. Open final will feature two stars in very different places in their respective careers. She has slipped this past year, falling to No. 8 after entering the US Open last year at No. 1. She entered the match with a tournament-best 60 aces and winning 78 percent of her first-serve points. I was in the locker room and I was just crying because I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really bad at tennis.’ I came here and I was just thinking, I’m going to have fun and fight for every point that I can. If she is connected with the champion she is and able to play her game, there is nobody that can match her level. After surviving a life-threatening postpartum crisis, the 36-year-old has well and truly clawed her way back into the tour and is bidding to win her first Grand Slam title since childbirth.
She announced herself in NY past year when she caused an upset to knock out defending US Open champion and world number six Angelique Kerber in the first round. Let’s go back to the beginning. Australia’s Margaret Court now holds the record. She dreamed when she was younger of playing Williams in a Grand Slam final, earning her chance with a Williams-esque waltz through the draw in which she’s dropped just 28 games over six matches.
Naomi Osaka is 20 years old. While she began the evening well enough in Arthur Ashe Stadium by turning in two error-free games for a quick 2-0 lead, that all soon changed. The video begins by showing a clip in which an interviewer tells Serena: “A year ago, you were not here”.
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