Osaka unlocks Keys to earn historic victory

Naomi Osaka has made history by becoming the first Japanese woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam singles final.

The No. 20 seed defeated last year’s beaten finalist Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 in the second of Thursday’s semi-finals in Arthur Ashe Stadium to set up a clash with Serena Williams in Saturday’s final.

It was the first time Osaka had defeated her American opponent in four career meetings.

“This still feels really weird, because I’ve never beaten Madison before. She’s such a good player,” Osaka said.

“I just tried to think that I’ve never been in this situation before, [and] I’m just really happy to be here.”

Keys was full of praise for her opponent after the match.

“I felt like if I could break, maybe I could get back into it. Every time I had a break point, it was an ace or a winner or something like that,” Keys said.

“You’re in that match and you think, ‘Okay, she’s going to let up eventually.’ She didn’t, so all credit to her…It was really impressive. For a first-time semi-finalist on a big stage and all that, it was really impressive she held her nerve the entire time, never really had any kind of slip-up.”

Keys had her chances but was unable to take any of four break points for a 3-1 lead in the first set. Osaka then broke Keys in the next game.

The American missed two more break points before the Japanese broke to love, then took her to deuce before Osaka held to win the opening set.

Keys subsequently missed six break points in a hard-fought second game in the next set and, after seeing off a 13th break point for a 5-3 lead, Osaka served out the final game to claim victory.

Osaka goes into Saturday’s final on the back of a victory over Williams when they last played each other. The pair met in the opening round of the Miami Open in March, the Japanese No. 1 recording a 6-3, 6-2 win.

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