Serena, Naomi Osaka in dream final clash at U.S. Open

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The greater part of their story is ready even before the first ball is struck on Saturday night for the women’s title. It consists of Serena’s inspirational role for young girls worldwide and the dream of one of those dewy-eyed inspired ones. For Naomi Osaka, it was to play Serena in a match at a Grand Slam event. She got the bonus; it is happening in the title match as the tennis world is offered the classic battle of age groups.

There is a similarity in the advent of the two women. Richard Williams had seen a cheque presentation on television for the prize money at a WTA event and generated the plan to make his daughters champions in the sport. He did it his own way, not through the conventional route of junior tennis and tournaments in clubs that were closed to blacks. Naomi’s father utilized the template and went further, to offer home schooling to his two daughters, Maria and Naomi, thereby shielding them from the negative experiences.

In the semi-finals, Naomi defied the rankings to avenge her disappointing loss in 2016 when she forfeited a 5-1 lead in the final set against Madison Keys the highest seeded player in the last four. Keys and Osaka had powered their way through five rounds. The 23-year old Keys led 3-0 in the career match-ups and seemed set for a victory when she led 2-1 in first set and had four break points which were cancelled by Naomi who proceeded to break serve and take a 3-2 lead. The Japanese star did not drop another game in the set.

In the second set, Naomi saved 6 break points the second game that tallied eight deuces. She won the set to seal the match after 75 minutes of play.Serena continued her demolition mode in defeating the unseeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova ranked higher than Serena who got a special seeding of 17. The 23-time Grand Slam winner blasted 4 aces with only one double fault and won the points 22 times out of 29 successful first serves. She added to the dominance by charging the net where she won 24 points in 28 forays.

Serena also won the games on five times she had break points while her opponent had won one game from only 2 break opportunities. At the finish line, Serena won a total of 60 points consisting 31 outright winners.

Naomi Osaka’s coach, Sascha Bajin, was the former hitting partner of Serena Williams. The two finalists are among the hardest hitters. At the US Open, their opponents could not cope with their power as they raced through the rounds to quick victories in the semi-finals.

Naomi Osaka knows the challenge in playing the finals. It is not just about balls coming at her but the inner battle of facing her idol.  Although she said “I love you” when asked about Serena after her victory over Madison Keys, she was quick to add that she would go into the finals with the attitude that “it is just another match, against an opponent.” She already had a foretaste in defeating Serena in their first career match at the WTA Miami event in March, following her first career title in Indian Wells.When the final point ends, the winner would have made history. Will it be the first Grand Slam title for Naomi Osaka or the 24th for Serena Williams?

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