US Open: Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka face off in final | News | DW | 07.09.2018
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US Open: Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka face off in final

Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final. She will have to defeat Serena Williams, who will be in the hunt for her 24th title to mark her inspiring return to the court.

The stage is set for a memorable final, where newcomer Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams will compete for the last Grand Slam trophy of the year. Both women delivered strong performances in Thursday night's semifinals, each winning their matches in two straight sets.

The night started off with Serena Williams, who had the backing of many of the more than 20,000 fans that gathered. In just 66 minutes, Williams overpowered Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia with 6-3 and 6-0 sets, by pressing her in the short game, landing four of the five serve-and-volley shots and serving at a speed of more than 190 kilometers (118 miles) per hour.

"The crowd was so intense and helped me out so much after those first two games," said Williams.

Sevastova, seeded 19th and making her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance, had 17 unforced errors and was never able to battle back against the six-time US Open winner.

Her own mistakes, coupled with not being able to break Williams led to the disappointing result, Sevastova said. "She had better statistics I think, better than me. More winners, less mistakes," the Latvian said. "So she deserves it, yeah."

Of her ticket to the finals, Williams expressed gratitude and said she was satisfied to have made it this far in a tournament that she missed last year, due to the birth of her child.

"It is really incredible, a year ago I was literally fighting for my life at the hospital after having the baby," said Williams. "Every day I step out on this court I am so grateful to have an opportunity to play this sport… So no matter what happens in any match, semis, finals I already feel like I have already won," she added.

Williams will play her second consecutive Grand Slam final this year. A win on Saturday would give the 36-year-old a seventh US Open title, breaking a tie with Chris Evert for the most in the Open era and equaling Australian Margaret Court's all-time Grand Slam record of 24.

Read more: US Open officials apologize after sexist shirt removal row

First Grand Slam for Japan

Following Williams' triumph, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka prevailed over Madison Keys and made history on the court by becoming the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final.

The two women had played against each other three times prior to the match, with Keys winning all three matches. But this time, Osaka won with a convincing 6-2, 6-4 win over 14th-seeded Keys, who was the runner up at the 2017 US Open.

Osaka pulled off the win in one hour, 26 minutes with a service winner, and break into a smile as the ball flew off the frame of Keys' racquet and into the crowd.

Keys spoke frankly of the challenge Osaka presented to her. "Every time I had a break point, it was an ace or a winner or something like that," she said. "You keep fighting... You think, okay, she's going to let up eventually, but she didn't, so all credit to her," Keys conceded.

When asked about the spot in the finals, Osaka admitted that Serena's win had motivated her. "This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking I really want to play Serena," she said.

 "I love you, Serena" she said, before adding "I love you, mom; I love everybody".

Osaka, 20th seed, has faced off against Williams once before, at the Miami Open in March. She defeated the tennis legend in that match, a feat she will try to repeat, but this time with a Grand Slam title on the line.

jcg/kl (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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