Both women’s semi-finals at the US Open will have a first time grand slam semi-finalist with Naomi Osaka joining Anastasija Sevastova in the last four. 2018 has been a breakthrough year for Osaka, who hopes to deny Madison Keys a second straight final at Flushing Meadows.
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Osaka began to break into the mainstream with her title at Indian Wells back in March before defeating a returning Serena Williams the following week in Miami. It hasn’t been all positive on the way to the top for the Japanese star with a number of surprises losses throughout the year, including three straight coming into the tournament. Only the in-form Aryna Sabalenka has been able to get close to her this fortnight, taking Osaka to three sets. In the other four wins, she has lost just nine games. “Like just my mentality and stuff. Like in Indian Wells I get a bit distracted if I’m in the lead. And now I feel like I’m finding it easier to try to close it up as quickly as I can.” Osaka said in what she feels has changed since that big title at the start of the year.
Keys suffered a surprise third round loss at Wimbledon but as otherwise established herself as an impressive performer at slams in recent times. It will be her second semi final of the year after getting there in France, losing to Sloane Stephens. Aside from dropping a set to Aleksandra Krunic, she has been fairly dominant with no other player getting 5 games in as set from her. “I think that I am doing whatever I can to put myself in the position to go deeper into slams. I think I’m feeling more comfortable in those big moments and like matches like tonight. Training hard the week before and trying to not put too much pressure on myself has really helped me do that.” Keys said.
Keys leads the head to head 3-0 with one win in each of the past three years. The most notable of that was a third round encounter at this tournament, which Keys won in a third set tiebreak. As eighth seed, she was 1-5 down in the third against a much more raw Osaka – only to come back and win 5 straight games and turn the match on it’s head. With her big match experience, you have to give the advantage to Keys but Osaka can more than match her strike for strike in her quest to become the first Japanese woman in a slam final.
Prediction – Madison Keys in three sets