Serena Williams v Naomi Osaka: US Open final preview, stats and betting
Will experience triumph over youth in this year’s US Open final when 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams takes on first-time finalist Naomi Osaka? Here’s everything you need to know…
It has been a mixed bag for both players not only in terms of their form in recent weeks, but for 2018 overall.
Of course, Williams’ story is well documented as she only returned to action in March after more than a year out on maternity leave.
She reached the fourth round of the French Open and finished runner-up at Wimbledon, but outside of that she hasn’t really hit top stride. And again you have to take lengthy absence into account.
Osaka, meanwhile, came into the US Open on the back of first-round losses at the Cincinnati Masters and the Rogers Cup, yet she is in the final.
As for her Grand Slam form, she reached the last 16 of the Australian Open and round three at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
The big standout moment of 2018 so far is her Indian Wells Masters title, her only WTA Tour trophy to date, where she beat world No 1 Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova.
Their only meeting came in the first round of the Miami Open this year and it was youth that overcame experience as Osaka beat the 23-time Grand Slam winner 6-3, 6-2.
But again you have to take into account that it was Williams’ second tournament and only her fourth match into her comeback.
What they’ve said
Serena Williams: “It’s honestly really incredible.
“A year ago I was fighting for literally my life at the hospital after I had the baby. Every day I step on this court I’m so grateful that I have an opportunity to play this sport.
“No matter what happens in any match, semis, finals, I just feel like I’ve already won.”
Naomi Osaka: “It still feels a little bit, like, surreal. Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam,” she said.
“Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it. At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match.
“Yeah, I shouldn’t really think of her as, like, my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.”
As far as the bookies are concerned, it’sa no-brainer about whether experience or youth will win out in this one.
Serena Williams is the odds-on favourite with all the bookies, with Bet365’s 4/11 typical. Osaka’s odds, meanwhile, aren’t quite long enough to make backing an upset outright with Paddy Power Tennis all that appealing.
Bet365 are offering 10/1 on Williams to win the first set and lose the match, and that’s not as crazy as it would first appear.
Osaka has the ability to move Serena around the court and if her defensive game is on point and she stretches the game out long enough, Williams could well wilt the longer the match goes on.
The flip side of the coin is that Osaka could start well and slowly become overwhelmed by Williams’ power, both mentally and physically.
If that’s where your instinct lies, then Bet365’s 6/1 on Williams to lose the first set but win the match should tempt you.
Even though the score was a lopsided 6-2, 6-4 win, Madison Keys asked A LOT of questions during her semi-final loss, but Osaka came up with answers on each occasion. In fact, she had 13 break points, but Osaka fought them all off.
Osaka is a power-hitter and someone who isn’t afraid to go for her shots to finish a point early, but she made Keys run, A LOT.
Williams, on the other hand, was a bit static against Anastasija Sevastova during the opening couple of games, but she eventually got moving and proved too much for the Latvian.
It’s again a case of youth versus experience as it’s a 20-year-old appearing in her maiden Grand Slam final taking on a 23-time major winner.
The key will be whether or not Osaka can shake off the nerves and forget that it’s her hero on the other side of the net.
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