Osaka Beats Azarenka to win 2020 US Open Women’s singles Title
Down but never out. Trailing by a set and a break, No. 4 seed Naomi Osaka rallied for a thrilling 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka to win the women’s singles title at the 2020 US Open on Saturday.
Controlling the middle of the court for much of the first 30 minutes of the match, with the relentless brand of baseline tennis that first took her to the top of the WTA rankings eight years ago, it seemed for all the world as though Azarenka would roll to her third Grand Slam singles title as she built a 6-1, 2-0 lead, with a game point on serve for 3-0.
But as the old saying goes, “Champions adjust.” It’s a line Billie Jean King made famous, and one that many others repeated on social media as they followed the gripping contest on television—the only way most around the world could take in the Open this year without fans in the stands.
Inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, at the venue that bears King’s name, that’s precisely what Osaka did to become a two-time US Open champion, and collect her third Grand Slam title overall.
“I feel like two years ago, I maybe would have folded being down a set and a break,” Osaka said after the match, recalling the differences between Saturday’s win and her first in 2018. “But I think, all the matches that I played in between that time shaped me and made me or forced me to mature more. Especially all the matches that I’ve played here were very tough.
“I think definitely I’m more of a complete player now. I feel like I’m more aware of what I’m doing.”
In the second set, the 22-year-old started to find her range, landing more first serves and wrestling control from Azarenka in the rallies. As quickly as she’d fallen behind, it seemed, Osaka drew level, winning six of seven games to send the match to a final set.
Her momentum continued well into the decider, as her groundstrokes continued to find the corners and her serve stayed on-point. The first to break serve in the final set, Osaka staked her claim to an early 3-1 lead, and navigated her way out of a 0-40 deficit in what proved to be a crucial fifth game.
“In the first set, I thought she was playing great. Honestly, I felt like there was nothing I could do. In the second set, I just kept trying for every point,” Osaka said.
“I think in the first set, I was so nervous, I wasn’t moving my feet. I felt like I was not playing—not that I expect myself to play 100 percent, but it would be nice if I could even play, like, 70 percent. I just felt like I was too much in my own head. Then in the second set, of course I was down early, which really didn’t help me out. I just thought to myself to be positive, don’t lose 6-1, 6-0, hopefully give her a slight run for her money. I just sort of ran with that line of thinking.
“I would say a really important game was definitely the game that I broke her in the third set. I’m glad that I did it earlier on because I felt like, later down the line, it would have gotten really tight for me.”
With her back against the wall, Azarenka authored late resistance. The Belarusian saved a trio of break points herself in the sixth game, where losing any one of them would’ve seen her trail, 5-1. She later denied Osaka a pair of game points that would have seen her lead 5-2. Instead, Azarenka turned the decider on its head and got back on serve, but got no closer from then on.
“The break, maybe in the beginning of the second set, she started to play better. Caught a few lines, had some really good shots. She was being really aggressive. I don’t know if there was just one momentum shift,” Azarenka said in defeat.
I felt there were a few moments that were shifting, even in the second set… I didn’t convert my chances, but I felt like I was kind of changing the momentum but I didn’t really finish it. I don’t think there was only one. I think in the third set also I started to come back and stuff. It was a lot of tight moments where [it] didn’t work out for me today.
“I did everything I could today. Could I have played better? I think I could. But I left everything I could on the court today. She won the match. All the credit to Naomi. She’s a champion.”