TENNIS: Naomi Osaka defeats Victoria Azarenka to win second US Open title


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.

The Japanese added her second title in New York with a battling performance to her Australian Open crown for her third Grand Slam in three years.

The Belarusian mother of her three-year-old son, Leo, was making an improbable comeback at the age 31 against the 22-year-old Japanese sporting icon and highest-earning female athlete in the world.

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

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.


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