Japan’s Naomi Osaka on Saturday came from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka of Belarus to win the US Open and clinch her third Grand Slam title.
Osaka, the fourth seed, overcame her unseeded opponent 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 inside a near-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows in New York City to win US$3 million in prize money.
It brought 22-year-old Osaka’s haul of tennis major trophies to three after her victories at the 2018 US Open and last year’s Australian Open.
Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA Today
“I didn’t really enjoy that. It was a really tough match for me,” Osaka said following her one hour, 53 minute victory.
Azarenka, 31, sprinted to the first set in just 26 minutes, dominating Osaka with an 88 percent success rate on her first serve.
The Japanese was uncharacteristically sloppy, hitting a whopping 13 unforced errors.
Azarenka then went 2-0 ahead in the second set, before Osaka fought back to break her opponent’s serve twice and take a 4-3 lead.
The momentum had quickly swung in Osaka’s favor and she broke a third time to push the match to a deciding set.
“I just thought it would be very embarrassing to lose this in under an hour so I just have to try as hard as I can and stop having a really bad attitude,” said Osaka, explaining the turnaround.
Osaka enjoyed the first breakthrough of set three in game four when she broke Azarenka’s serve to take a 3-1 lead.
Azarenka then blew a golden opportunity to get back into the match, wasting three break points as Osaka recovered from 0-40 to hold for a 4-1 lead.
Azarenka saved four break points to make it 4-2 as she battled to keep the contest alive.
When she broke Osaka in game seven, the set was back on serve, but Osaka immediately broke back after Azarenka pushed a forehand wide to leave herself the opportunity of serving for the match and title.
On Osaka’s second championship point, Azarenka found the net.
Osaka rises to third in the WTA rankings and becomes the first Asian player to win three Grand Slams, overtaking China’s Li Na on two.
Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, was playing in her first major final since losing the 2013 US Open to Serena Williams.
The last few years of the former world number one’s career have been disrupted, firstly by injury then by a custody battle over her son, but she enjoyed a fairytale run in New York, clinching the Western & Southern Open title before reaching the US Open final, where she lost for the third time.
“I want to thank my team for sticking with me, for believing in me,” Azarenka said. “It’s been a long road of getting here, but this was fun.”
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