— wta (@WTA) September 11, 2020
It's been seven years since Vika Azarenka was in a major final. During that time, she was put through a wringer of life change and legal problems, the latter of which undoubtedly traumatized her. Her return to the tour brought her so much frustration that in January, she considered retiring. But the two-time Australian Open champion and two-time U.S. Open finalist decided to give it one more try. And from the moment she set foot on the grounds in Flushing Meadows, she looked like the Azarenka we remembered from years ago.
Azarenka allowed the considerably talented Elise Mertens one game in their quarterfinal match, and then all eyes were on her semifinal, in which she faced Serena Williams, who defeated her in the finals in 2012 (when Azarenka held a match point) and 2013. The atmosphere was electric, not just because of the historic meeting between the two women, but also because we had just witnessed a remarkable match between two players of another generation.
Williams' 6-1 first set scoreline made it look ominous for Azarenka, but in the second and third sets, she turned on the magic switch and won both of them 6-3. The quality of the match was very high, the rallies were thrilling, and the intensity of the opponents was almost off the charts. They really do bring out the best in each other.
Azarenka will play 2018 champion Naomi Osaka in the final. Osaka defeated Jennifer Brady, who--for a while--looked as though she working from the Sofia Kenin playbook. Brady hadn't dropped a set throughout the tournament, and she was making it all look pretty easy. But some time in the third set, it appeared that the heaviness of the occasion caught up to Brady--she lost her edge, and she began to make more errors. Osaka was happy to take advantage, and she skillfully honed in on all the shots she needed to make to get to the final, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3.
It was a thrilling, well-played match. Brady, who--for a while this summer--couldn't stop winning, finally saw her streak come to an end, but the 25-year-old Florida resident has a whole lot of which to be proud.
Here are the players' paths to the final:
round 1--def. Misaki Doi
round 2--def. Camila Giorgi
round 3--def. Marta Kostyuk
round of 16--def. Anett Kontaveit (14)
quarterfinals--def. Shelby Rogers
semifinals--def. Jennifer Brady (28)
round 1--def. Barbara Haas
round 2--def Aryna Sabalenka (5)
round 3--def. Iga Swiatek
round of 16--def. Karolina Muchova (20)
quarterfinals--def. Elise Mertens (16)
semifinals--def. Serena Williams (3)