For all of six minutes.
Osaka’s family relocated to the United States when she was three years old, eventually settling in Long Island, New York and later in Florida.
Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player slated to face off against Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open women’s final match. She was ranked No. 44 in the world and had just hired Williams’ former hitting partner, Sascha Bajin, as her coach when she beat Maria Sharapova, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina to win the Indian Wells title. And a 24th Grand Slam win would tie Serena with Margaret Court for the most ever.
Williams walked off Arthur Ashe Stadium court with a wave and twirl to await the victor of the other semi-final between Japan’s Naomi Osaka and American Madison Keys, who lost last year’s final to Sloane Stephens.
“It’s really cool that I was able to play her so early”, Osaka said. “Like, what do you mean?” Back in March, she played Serena for the first time, showed no sense of nerves and rolled her 6-3, 6-2 in the first round in Miami.
It was an ominous statement of intent by the American, who is seven months into her comeback after enduring life-threatening complications when giving birth to her first child a year ago. She holds both Japanese and American citizenship, and is far more adept in English than she is in her mother tongue. (They won Wimbledon in July.) Bryan hopes to lift his 18th doubles major trophy, while Sock is going for his fourth.
“It is really incredible”.
“I know how to volley, I usually come in just to shake hands”, said Williams. I think that experience was really good for me.
And there were plenty of those. She had 31 winners.
“When I won, it was a little surreal, but I also thought it was sad it’s over because I wanted to keep playing her”, Osaka told The Times in June.
“This is just the beginning of my return”, she said. “She stayed focused in the second set”.
The crowd, whose bustle was amplified thanks to the closed roof, urged Williams on the entire time as Sevastova grew more and more emotional.
Sevastova changes speeds and angles a lot, which helped her eliminate defending champion Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals. The effort paid off: Williams won 24 of 28 of her net points, an 86% rate. If she serves well, particularly on the first serve, that will put pressure on Osaka to avoid costly errors when the ball is on her racket. I was more disappointed just in my level of tennis.
Djokovic, the 2011 and 2015 US Open champion, will hae a chance to avenge his loss to Nishikori in the semi-finals in 2014- when the Japanese player finished runner-up to Marin Cilic. The Florida-based athlete moved with her parents to NY at the age of 3.
“Mom, I did it”.
“It still feels really weird because I’ve never beaten Madison before”, Osaka said.