The 31-year-old was victorious against many notable opponents on her way to a championship match, but she was particularly excited about what she knew would be a tough fight against Naomi Osaka.
But before the match began, Osaka retired due to a left hand injury. Azarenka was named the Western and Southern Open champion without touching the racket.
After the trophy ceremony, he said, “I think it’s unfortunate, because I really wanted to compete against Naomi.” “It would have been an amazing opportunity to face his level, and he would be playing really well. I lost to him the last time we played, so I was really looking forward to him.
“And playing the finals is always really special, so, you know, I take it that way. I can’t change anything. I just have to accept what it is. I would love to be played.”
That was two weeks ago.
Azarenka will be aspired to play the role of Osaka on Saturday. This time at Arthur Ash Stadium, while on TV millions of people around the world watch the Grand Slam title on line at the US Open (4pm ET, ESPN and ESPN app).
Azarenka defeated Serena Williams 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals on Thursday. “I’m sure this time we’re going to play and it’s going to be a great match. I think it’s going to be a great final. I hope it will. I will have fun.”
“But she is a very, very powerful player. She is a great champion. She has already won two. Don’t we both see a third? It will be fun.”
Both players have made the most of their time in New York during the two-tournament bubble. When she arrived in the city, Azarenka had not won a match in a year and considered retirement on several occasions. It was a challenging few years for the former world No 1, who won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013.
Following the birth of her son, Leo, in December of 2016, she returned to tour the following June, but has played an inconsistent schedule due to a controversial custody battle resulting in a travel ban. She was unable to play in Australia to open the 2020 season, but wanted to give tennis her last try. Postponed the tour of the game due to a coronovirus epidemic, and that is where it again gained confidence.
“Faith comes first [winning the big matches], “She said after her win on Thursday. Before Cincinnati before Lexington, it was coming on the tennis court, in practice, not in practice. I didn’t start exercising my faith when I started getting results. [It] Does not work that way. So my faith was deeper than before, from within me, that’s what I want to do, and I’m going to work real hard about it.
“Did I think about the results? I mean, I want to think about the results, but I don’t necessarily put it in a perspective like this. I was wondering how I could raise my level? I How can I be mentally stable and tough? ” I’ve always been tough, but I’ve had moments where I just haven’t. I was not in the moment. I found peace now in the moment. ”
She has won 11 straight matches and will return to the top 20 for the first time since 2017. In the semifinals against longtime foe (and off-court pal) Williams on Thursday, the invincible Azarenka lost the opening set 6–1, but dug deep to make a deep comeback and his first major final since 2013. Advance to And while many have long hoped that Williams would be the next mother to win a slam after four final appearances after returning to the competition from childbirth, it was Azarenka’s chance to become only the fourth mother in the history of the Open era to A big win can be achieved.
The 22-year-old Osaka admitted struggling with the weight of his initial success, won the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open, and was discouraged by the results thereafter. She lost in the fourth round at Queens last year, and fell in the round of 32 in Melbourne to start the season. But, he too found perspective during unexpected breaks.
Earlier this week, he said, “I honestly feel that after 2019, after winning Australia, I put a lot of pressure on myself.” “I wasn’t enjoying it … I just thought to myself, ‘I’m going to take quarantine to mentally evaluate what I want to do when I get back.” And for me, when you walk on Ash, there is a quote from Billie Jean King that says, ‘Pressure is a privilege,’ and to me, I feel like it’s very true. “
Osaka didn’t use the time to improve his game or attitude, he started using his voice for issues that mattered to him. She went to Minneapolis to protest the death of George Floyd, and wrote an op-ed for Esquire about systematic racism and oppression. The commitment to social justice did not stop when the season resumed.
Hours after heading to the semi-finals at the Western and Southern Open, Osaka intended to sit out the match the next day in hopes of starting a dialogue after Jacob Blake’s police shooting. Her selfless work pushed the game to meet the moment, and the tournament announced that there would be no match the next day in hopes of encouraging reflection. She played in the rescheduled match two days later, and arrived for her match in a Black Lives Matter shirt.
During their run at the US Open, the No. 4 seed has worn a different mask for each match, each named after someone who died as a result of racial injustice and police brutality, hoping to raise global awareness Their stories and predicament. Osaka has repeatedly expressed a desire to wear all seven masks, and now she will do just that.
“I think it’s a big motivating factor for me because I can try to name as many people as I can on Thursday after defeating American Jennifer Brady in the semi-finals,” she said. “So I’m not sure it’s giving me extra power. Certainly I want more people to talk about it.”
There is no lack of motivation for any player. The two are playing their best tennis in recent memory, and each is perhaps more energetic and excited than ever, all making a classic final on Saturday.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two players, with Osaka winning the series 2–1. Their last meeting, in the second round of the 2019 French Open, went in three sets, with Osaka eventually winning.
Osaka’s coach, Wim Fishet, knows it will be another tough match for him. And he would know. He previously coached Azarenka, so he understands both players and their styles and strengths in the best way.
“Of course, I know that Vika’s game is very good,” he said. “But it seems to me that this is the final of the US Open. It is about trying to control emotions and play the best tennis at the right time.”
“There are some important points to be decided tomorrow. That’s what I’m feeling. Maybe an ace at the right time or a double fault at the wrong time can decide this match. I think it’s with two players It’s a very close match. Playing the best tennis for the last three weeks, yes, I’m sure it’s going to be a big fight tomorrow. ”
Will Osaka, representing a movement larger than itself, help spread the message with a win on the biggest stage of the game? Will Azarenka complete his unfair and inspiring run and return to his place as one of the best players in tennis?
One thing is certain: On Saturday someone will win their third major title, and the second runner-up will be left for the trophy. But with the two already in the past few weeks – on and off the court – having achieved so much, it seems unlikely that they will both make New York the champion.
“The way I see myself now, on the tennis court, away from the tennis court, is that I don’t put myself at the point where I’m going to be. In college What matters is this or this result, “Azarenka said earlier in the week.” For me everything is an experience. I live in the moment. I enjoy that moment no matter what it is. I know it somehow.
“It took me a long road to come here with a lot of struggles, a lot of understanding, forced me to find this route, this path, if you can say so. But I’m here and I’m happy.”