A Grand Slam title is obviously the big prize of the U.S. Open, but for Naomi Osaka, the chance to simply face Serena Williams is a prize in itself.
Osaka, the U.S. Open’s 20-seed, advanced to the U.S. Open finals on Thursday by beating Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 and will face Serena Williams on Saturday. Osaka’s victory came in an unusual manner, as the Japanese player was frequently in hot water with her serve, but survived by going a perfect 13-for-13 in break points.
When asked how Osaka was able to save so many break points, she explained a somewhat unexpected motivation that was pushing her.
13 break points saved…How did you do that?
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2018
“This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking ‘I really want to play Serena.'”
Williams advanced to the final before Osaka’s match by cruising past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-0 and will be seeking a Grand Slam title with both personal and historic meaning on Saturday. A win would tie Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam singles title in tennis history with 24 and would mark her first Grand Slam title since giving birth last September.
It’s certainly understandable that the 20-year-old Osaka would be excited to face Williams. While she was born in Japan, her family moved to the United States when she was three years old and she grew up idolizing Williams.
From USA Today two years ago:
Whose career would she like to emulate?
“Serena,” she answers, without missing a beat. “I was really impressed by her and wanted to play like her when I was little. Well, I hope I’m starting to play like her now.”
From that same article, Williams was also familiar with Osaka, calling her a “very dangerous” tennis player even when she was just 17 years old. Two and a half years later, Williams herself will be testing that herself while Osaka lives out a dream.
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