Japanese star Naomi Osaka always dreamed of competing in the US Open – now she’s made it all the way to the final.
Osaka, 20, is Japanese-born but spent part of her childhood in New York. Now she will vie for a Grand Slam title in the US Open final, taking on none other than Serena Williams.
Osaka proved too strong for semi-final opponent Madison Keys on Friday, wrapping up a 6-2, 6-4 victory to earn a finals date against the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
She is the first Japanese woman to reach the final of a Grand Slam event, and regardless of the result on Saturday, she has already made history for the island nation.
Japanese fans and media were already hailing her performance in reaching the last four along with Kei Nishikori in the men’s draw, and now they have even more to celebrate.
“It feels a little bit surreal,” said Osaka. “Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam.
“At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. I shouldn’t really think of her as my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.”
The prospect of lifting the title is certainly not out of reach for Osaka, considering that she beat Serena in Miami earlier this year. The victory came shortly after she lifted the title at Indian Wells, and it suggests she has what it takes to go toe to toe with the younger Williams sister.
Asked about her loss to Osaka – the only previous meeting between the two players – Williams said she hopes to do much better this time around.
“Hopefully I won’t play like that again,” said the American. “I can only go up.”
Osaka will be aware of the fact that Williams had only just made her return from maternity leave when she suffered the defeat, however, and will probably be a much trickier opponent this time around. But she doesn’t seem frightened in the least.
In fact, the prospect of playing Serena in the final helped spur Osaka on in the semi-final, she revealed.
Keys earned a whopping 13 break points against Osaka but was unable to convert a single one. Asked about her success in fending off those break points, Osaka smiled: “This is going to sound really bad but I was just thinking I really want to play Serena,” she said.
When asked why, she replied: “Why? She’s Serena. What do you mean?”
Naomi Osaka took these photos with her idol Serena Williams at the Bank of the West Classic in 2014. Now they will play for the 2018 US Open Title on Saturday. 😀🎾
(photos WTA, Bank of the West Classic FB) pic.twitter.com/JpEw0X4W0K
— LaWanda (@lawanda50) September 7, 2018
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