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Osaka Comes Back From 1-6, 0-2 Down To Beat Azarenka For Second U.S. Open Tennis Title

By Ricky Dimon

The third time was not the charm for Victoria Azarenka.

For a while, it looked like it would be.

Playing in her third U.S. Open final and bidding for her first title, Azarenka led Naomi Osaka by a set and 2-0 in the second only to see Osaka storm back for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 triumph. With that, the 22-year-old from Japan lifted the trophy for the second time in New York (previously in 2018) and gave herself a third Grand Slam title overall (also the 2019 Australian Open).

Azarenka was coming off an awesome semifinal victory over Serena Williams and for nine games on Saturday displayed the exact same form. The Belausian even had a game point on her own serve to lead 3-0 in the second set, but that’s when Osaka’s comeback began.

“I thought it would be very embarrassing to lose this in under an hour, so I had to fight and stop having a bad attitude.” the world No 9 explained.

Osaka ended up breaking in the third game of the second set to get back on serve at 1-2. From there she never relinquished momentum. She broke again–at love–for a 4-3 advantage before adding another break at 5-3 to finish the set.

Naomi Osaka (R) and Victoria Azarenka during the trophy ceremony

“In the beginning of the second set, she started to play better,” Azarenka said. “(She) 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. I felt there were a few moments that were shifting…. I didn’t kind of convert my chances, but I felt like I was kind of changing the momentum [and] didn’t really finish it.”

Although Osaka broke for a 3-1 lead in the decider, that was not the final blow. The No. 4 seed gave back the break at 4-2 but answered with another break of her own for 5-3–this one proving to be decisive. A confident and clutch hold in the ninth game wrapped up the proceedings in style.

“Actually I don’t want to play you in any more finals,” Osaka told Azarenka during the trophy ceremony after the 31-year-old had expressed a desire for more such matches. “I didn’t really enjoy that; it was a really tough match for me. And, yeah, it’s really inspiring for me because I used to watch you play here when I was younger. So just to have the opportunity to play you is really great and I learned a lot, so thank you.”

Naomi Osaka

“I’m not disappointed,” Azarenka assured. “I’m not necessarily disappointed. It’s just painful; it’s painful to lose. That is what it is. It was close; I was close. But it didn’t go my way. Am I going to think about it too long? Not at all. I said it: ‘I win or I lose, I’m not going to change. I’m not going to sit here and be miserable.’ This was an experience that was just an experience that didn’t go my way. I had a great two weeks. I enjoyed myself. 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.

“I thought the third time was the charm, but I guess I’ll have to try again.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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