Serena Williams will face No. 20 seed Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old who is the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final in US Open final, today.
Naomi Osaka says she “always dreamed” she would play her idol Serena Williams in a Grand Slam final after both reached this year’s US Open decider.
Osaka saved all 13 break points she faced Thursday and defeated 2017 runner-up Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4.
Asked during her on-court interview how she managed to stave off all those break chances, Osaka replied with a laugh, “This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking, ‘I really want to play Serena.’”
The 20-year-old became Japan’s first female Grand Slam finalist by defeating last year’s runner up Madison Keys 6-2 6-4 at Flushing Meadows in New York.
Six-time winner Williams is looking to match the record 24 Grand Slam titles won by Australian Margaret Court.
“I shouldn’t think of her as my idol, just as an opponent,” said Osaka.
“When I was a little kid I always dreamed I would play Serena in a Grand Slam final. At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match.”
Williams had lost in the semifinals in her previous two trips to New York — against Roberta Vinci in 2015 while bidding for a calendar-year Grand Slam and against Karolina Pliskova in 2016.
A year ago, Williams missed the US Open because she gave birth to her daughter, Olympia, during the tournament. She then dealt with complications related to blood clots.
The American returned to the tour in February and to Grand Slam action at the French Open in May, when she had to withdraw from the field with an injured chest muscle. At her second major back, Wimbledon, she was the runner-up.
A few weeks shy of turning 37, now comes a chance to take a title and become the oldest woman to win a Slam in singles.
“It’s honestly really incredible. A year ago, I was fighting for, literally, my life at the hospital after I had the baby,” Williams said, her voice wavering. “So every day I step out on this court, I am so grateful that I have an opportunity to play this sport, you know? So no matter what happens in any match — semis, finals — I just feel like I’ve already won.”
Sevastova was participating in a major semifinal for the first time at age 28. 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 roof was closed hours earlier because of a forecast calling for rain and strong wind, and so the screams and applause reverberated through the place whenever spectators roared for Williams, during the prematch introductions, when she stepped to the baseline to serve in the opening game, and then after nearly every point she won.
And there were plenty of those.
Total winners? Williams led 31-10 in that category. And Sevastova’s penchant for drop shots did not pay off: She lost three points in the first set with miscues that landed on the wrong side of the net.
“She got a little bit lucky, I think, on some breaks in the first set. Then she started feeling better. When she’s in front, it’s tough to play,” said Sevastova, who retired from tennis in 2013 then returned to the tour in 2015. “She stayed focused in the second set.”