March 23, 2019

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U.S. Open Tennis Final: Serena Williams vs. Naomi Osaka Live

U.S. Open Tennis Final: Serena Williams vs. Naomi Osaka Live
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Ramos amicably assuaged her.

“O.K., thank you,” Williams said. “Thank you so much.”

The exchange was a marked departure from how Williams reacted to a hindrance call in her U.S. Open final in 2011, when she called the umpire Eva Asderaki a “hater” and “unattractive inside.”

Here is what Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou did:

Williams earned a break point in the next game, but Osaka saved a long exchange of powerful forehands with a winner down the line on the 19th shot. Williams earned another break point that Osaka saved with an ace out wide, breaking her trend of serving down the T on her three break points. She continued the variety on the third break point she saved in the game, hitting a body serve at Williams that she could not return.

Williams hit a backhand return winner to earn a fourth break point, and after Osaka missed her first serve, Williams pounced on a soft 79 m.p.h. second serve and broke for the first time, taking a 3-1 lead in the second.

Williams: ‘I don’t cheat to win’

Williams received a coaching violation from the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, in the second game of the second set, citing an apparent gesture made by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.


Serena Williams struggled with her first serve in the first set against Naomi Osaka.

Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Williams, speaking calmly but forcefully, told Ramos that the gesture was simply encouragement.

“I don’t cheat to win,” she told Ramos. “I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.”

Osaka held that game, and then had a break point to go up a set and a break. But Williams saved it by drawing an error from Osaka forehand, gave herself game point with a sly backhand drop shot, then held for 2-1 on an Osaka forehand into the net.


Serena Williams

Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Osaka wins the first set

Naomi Osaka has won the first set of the U.S. Open final in dominant fashion, 6-2, over Serena Williams. She clinched it on her first set point, with a 117 m.p.h. body serve that Williams sent back into the net.

Osaka was the more patient and steady of the two, taking advantage of shaky serving from Williams, who made only 38 percent of first serves in the first set. Osaka had an effective pattern of attacking Williams’s backhand.

Williams’s nerves so far are reminiscent of the last Grand Slam final she played against an unproven “next big thing”: Maria Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Williams lost that match, 6-1, 6-4.

Osaka to serve for the set

When the two first played in Miami, Osaka said her first goal was to play well enough to make Williams shout “Come on.” She got that wish in the sixth game of this match, with Williams screaming one of her loudest after going up 15-30 on Osaka’s serve with a forehand winner.

Williams then earned her first break point of the match with a swinging forehand volley to go up 30-40, only for Osaka to save it with a 117 m.p.h. ace down the middle. Williams quickly gained a second break point when Osaka netted a backhand, and this time was able to send back a 116 m.p.h. serve. Osaka won the ensuing nine-shot rally.

Osaka converted her first game point with another 117 m.p.h. serve, this one out wide.

Serving at 1-5, Williams hit her fourth double fault of the match to go down by 0-30, but won four straight points to hold for 2-5, including three unreturned serves.

Osaka will now serve for the first set.

Osaka breaks Williams again

Osaka is off to a commanding lead, leading by a double break, 4-1. The DJ is playing Alicia Keys’s “This Girl is on Fire” during the changeover, appropriately.

Osaka, who is coached by Williams’s longtime hitting partner Sascha Bajin, has started the match with poise and tactical clarity. Osaka has been picking on Williams’s backhand to great effect, drawing five forced errors and four unforced errors off that side already, while holding Williams to zero winners.

Appearing the more nervous of the two, Williams has double-faulted three times.

Osaka takes an early lead

Serena Williams held to open the match, recovering from a 0-30 deficit. Osaka did the same and then broke Williams to take an early 2-1 lead.


Naomi Osaka got off to a fast start in her first Grand Slam final.

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Osaka, who has power to match Williams’s, seems ready to counterpunch. Most points are ending off Williams’s racket, for better or worse.

Osaka won a long exchange of forehands in the third game to level it, and then converted the first break point of the match when Williams double-faulted.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd appears to be on Williams’s side. Shouts of “Let’s go, Serena!” came out before the match began. She was cheered on encouragingly after double-faulting in the second point of the match. When Osaka also double-faulted on her own second service point, the applause seemed to be more in response to Williams winning the point.

‘I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t nervous’

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have walked onto Arthur Ashe Stadium for the U.S. Open final, which will be officiated by chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

In a prematch interview, Osaka told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that “of course I feel like I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t nervous.” She said she savored the chance to play her idol in a major final.

“I’ve been watching her play Grand Slam finals since I was a kid, so I’m really honored that I’m having this opportunity,” Osaka said of Williams.

Williams is wearing the black version of her tennis tutu by the designer Virgil Abloh, eschewing the periwinkle option.


Serena Williams is playing her 31st Grand Slam final.

Elsa/Getty Images

Under the watchful eye of Billie Jean King, Williams won the coin toss and elected to serve.

Roof will be closed for women’s final

Most of this U.S. Open has been played in oppressive heat, but the heat wave broke on Friday. And Saturday has brought cooler temperatures and even rain. With the forecast calling for a high probability of rain from late afternoon into the evening, the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium has been closed for the women’s final.

Serena Williams vs. Naomi Osaka: Top Story Lines

• Serena Williams is back in the U.S. Open final for the first time in four years, a year and a week after giving birth to her daughter, Olympia.

• Williams, 36, is in her 31st Grand Slam final. Osaka, 20, is playing in her first. She had never advanced past the fourth round of a major before this tournament.

• The 16-year age gap between the two is the second largest in the Open era, behind only Martina Navratilova, 34, and Monica Seles, 17, in the 1991 U.S. Open final.

• There will be history at stake for both. Williams, who holds the Open era record for the most Grand Slam singles titles with 23, will again be looking to equal Margaret Court’s overall total of 24, many of which were won in the sport’s amateur days. Osaka, who has dual citizenship between her residence of the United States and her birthplace of Japan, is seeking to be the first woman representing Japan to win a Grand Slam singles title.

• Osaka’s father, Leonard Francois, was inspired by the success of the Williams sisters and raised his daughters in their footsteps, including following the Williams model of completely skipping junior tournaments. Osaka has long pointed to Williams as an idol. But she said of Williams on Thursday: “I should still think of it as another match. I shouldn’t really think of her as, like, my idol.”


Osaka, right, defeated Williams, 6-3, 6-2, in the first round of the Miami Open in March.

Al Bello/Getty Images

• Osaka won the pair’s only previous match, soundly beating Williams, 6-3, 6-2, in Miami. Williams, who was playing only her second tournament back from maternity leave, did not to return to the tour for two months after the lopsided loss.

• Williams is 15-1 in Grand Slam events this year, withdrawing from the fourth round of the French Open because of to a right pectoral injury and reaching the final of Wimbledon, falling in straight sets to Angelique Kerber.

What to read before the final

• Brook Larmer of The New York Times Magazine profiled Osaka before the U.S. Open began, calling her “one of the most intriguing young stars in sports today.”

• Osaka is one of the few women in pro tennis with a forehand shot clocked at more than 100 miles per hour. Here’s how she does it.

• This final pits Williams’s comeback season against Osaka’s breakthrough season. Christopher Clarey writes about the many connections between the two players.

• It has been a weird U.S. Open. Here’s a recap of the weirdness.

• Also, watch this:

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