Naomi Osaka defeats Victoria Azarenka in US Open final
Naomi Osaka defeats Victoria Azarenka in US Open final

Iconic image after wild US Open thriller

Naomi Osaka has pulled off an incredible comeback to defeat Victoria Azarenka in the US Open final.

The world No. 9 imploded in the first set but bounced back in remarkable fashion to win the decider 1-6 6-3 6-3 as Azarenka suffered a meltdown of her own in the final two sets.

The victory gives Osaka her third grand slam title and second US Open crown after she got the better of Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows in 2018.

"I just thought it would be very embarrassing to lose this in under hour," Osaka said after the match when asked about how she recovered from her early nerves.

"I want to congratulate Vika. I actually don't want to play you in more finals.

"I didn't really enjoy that, that was a really tough match for me."

Silverware looked well out of Osaka's reach as she fell to water in the opening set, plagued by unforced errors and losing her serve completely.

Azarenka, searching for her first major trophy in seven years, was unstoppable off her own racquet as her first-serve percentage soared above 90 per cent. She gave Osaka nothing and the 22-year-old looked to be wilting under the weight of expectation.

It was a similar story to start the second set. Azarenka broke early and breezed to a 2-0 lead before Osaka settled and found her range. The Japanese star used her ground strokes more effectively to keep her 31-year-old opponent in baseline rallies as her confidence grew.

She broke for the first time in the match and levelled things up at 2-2, before breaking again to close out the set 6-2. Osaka punched out 16 winners, compared to just five unforced errors as she completely turned the tables.

Osaka maintained the rage in the third set, stretching out to a 4-1 lead before Azarenka broke back to bring things back on serve at 3-4 - bus Osaka broke straight back for 5-3 and served out the match.

The newly-minted champion laid flat on her back on the court as she soaked up the magnitude of her accomplishment, giving photographers the chance to capture an iconic moment in the weirdest grand slam final we've seen given the lack of spectators because of COVID-19.

"I always see everyone collapse after match point. But I always think you may injure yourself so I wanted to do it safely," Osaka said of her post-match move.

 

Osaka has led the way in tennis when it comes to fighting against racial injustice, and she brought seven face masks to New York, each bearing the name of a victim of racism or police brutality.

By winning seven matches, she had the chance to display them all - a stand far more important than sport. Asked on court by ESPN's Tom Rinaldi what message she wanted to send, Osaka replied: "Well, what was the message you got? Isn't that more the question?

"The point is to make people start talking."

 

 

 

Originally published as Iconic image after wild US Open thriller