Western & Southern Open – F: preview + prediction:
?? (4) Naomi Osaka vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka
A blockbuster final between a pair of 2-time major champions and former world number 1’s will decide who takes home the 2020 Western & Southern Open crown. The 4th seeded Naomi Osaka takes on Victoria Azarenka. Expect a high-quality baseline battle here between two proven champions, who will prevail?
It has been a roller-coaster week for Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows in her first event since the tour restart. Osaka started the week with a hard-fought 3 set win over Karolina Muchova before comfortably defeating Dayana Yastremska in straight sets. The 22-year-old was again forced to fight from a set down in her quarter-final clash with Anett Kontaveit before booking her spot in the Saturday’s final with a 6-2 7-6 win over Elise Mertens. It has also been a big week for Osaka off the court after her decision not to take to the court for Thursday’s planned semi-final led to the entire tournament being delayed by a day.
Victoria Azarenka is having her best week on tour in years. The Belarusian stormed through her first 4 matches of the week without dropping a single set, recording wins over Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet and Ons Jabeur. The 2013 Western & Southern Open champion faced her greatest test in the semi-finals where she claimed an impressive 4-6 6-4 6-1 comeback win over Johanna Konta. Azarenka’s return of serve has always been one of her greatest weapons and it did the damage against Konta. Heading into their semi-final clash Konta hadn’t dropped serve all week, the Brit didn’t drop serve in the opening set on Friday before Azarenka broke the Brit’s serve on 5 occasions over the next few sets to make a real statement.
Osaka holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Azarenka. The most recent meeting between the pair took place at Roland Garros last year, Osaka claimed a dramatic 4-6 7-5 6-3 victory despite being outplayed for most of the opening 2 sets.
I’m going to go for the upset here, I think Azarenka has what it takes to defeat Osaka in this final. Azarenka has been at her counter-punching best this week, she will get a chance to play the type of tennis she loves against Osaka. Azarenka thrives on hard, flat hitting from the other side of the net, she gets that against Osaka. The pair play a very similar game, in this situation I’ll side with the tactically astute Azarenka who has been smothering her opponents all week. It feels like there is much more pressure on Osaka heading into this final, Osaka has been the talk of the town over the last few days and that may very well work against her heading into the championship match.