Serena Williams’ Route To The Final: 1r M Linette 64 60, 2r C Witthoeft 62 62, 3r (17) V Williams 61 62 , 4r K Kanepi 60 46 63, QF (8) K Pliskova 64 63, SF (19) A Sevastova 63 60
Naomi Osaka’s Route To The Final: 1r L Siegemund 63 62, 2r J Glushko 62 60, 3r A Sasnovich 60 60 , 4r (26) A Sabalenka 63 26 64, QF L Tsurenko 61 61, SF (14) M Keys 64 62
Serena Williams seeks her 24th grand slam title on Saturday evening, a number that would finally match that of Margaret Court – a number accrued across the amateur and open eras of the game. She plays Naomi Osaka, who has frequently expressed her adoration for her opponent and began playing the sport from a young age because of Serena and her family. “Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam. Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it.” Osaka said. She is now also coached by her former hitting partner, Sascha Bajin, who has overseen her rise from talented prospect to legitimate contender.
Osaka may be awkward and quirky when it comes to the media side of the sport but her game is anything but reserved. She packs a mighty punch and has been overpowering players all tournament with only Aryna Sabalenka getting a close match with her. The Japanese player won Indian Wells to break through with more casual audiences and has built on that with her run here. Her win over Madison Keys in the semi finals was incredibly impressive, especially the saving of all 13 break points she faced in the 6-2 6-4 win.
Aside from a minor struggle against Kaia Kanepi, Serena has been cruising through the draw this fortnight. Both Karolina Pliskova and Anastasija Sevastova were holding their own in the last two matches only for Serena to go on on a tear of games and put the match completely out of doubt for straight sets wins. The scary thing for other players will be she feels there is much room for improvement. “It is remarkable. I couldn’t have predicted this at all. Just been working really hard. Like I said, this is just the beginning of my return. I’m still on the way up.” she said. “There’s still much more that I plan on doing. You don’t reach your best a couple months in. I just feel like there’s a lot of growth to still go in my game. That’s actually the most exciting part.”
Osaka has shown that for all her support of Serena, she won’t let that distract her when it comes to the match itself. She already has a win over her this year, comfortably winning in Miami although that was against a far rustier version that was just a few matches into a comeback. The Wimbledon final showed the way to beat Serena, as Kerber kept her moving and extending the rallies during that surprisingly easy win for her. Osaka’s power is unquestioned but that may play into her opponent’s hands unless the 6 time US Open champion has an off night.
Prediction – Serena Williams in three sets