Serena faces history-maker Osaka in final

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Sep 2018 10:45:32




SIX-TIME champion Serena Williams swept aside Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday to reach a ninth US Open final, where she’ll face Japanese trail blazer Naomi Osaka.Williams, seeded 17th as she seeks to add to her 23 Grand Slam titles for the first time since the birth of her daughter Olympia last year, needed just 66 minutes to dispatch the 19th-seeded Sevastova 6-3 6-0.

Osaka, seeded 20th, became the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final with a 6-2 6-4 victory over American Madison Keys -- last year’s beaten finalist.Williams called her return to the US Open final for a ninth time ‘incredible’ given that she was undergoing surgery for life threatening blood clots this time last year in the wake of giving birth.

“To come from that, in the hospital bed, not being able to move and walk and do anything, now only a year later, I’m not training, but I’m actually in these finals, in two in a row,” said Williams, who also reached the final at Wimbledon.

“To come this far so fast I’m really looking forward to the possibilities.” Williams lost out in the semi-finals of her last two US Opens, in 2015 and 2016. But with six titles in New York she needs just one more to surpass Chris Evert for most all-time and she needs just one more Grand Slam title to equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.

Osaka, 20 and in the last four at a Slam for the first time, admitted she was driven by the idea of facing Williams. Asked how she managed to save all 13 break points she faced, Osaka said: “I was just thinking I really want to play Serena.” Asked to elaborate, Osaka seemed stunned.

“Because she’s Serena -- what do you mean!” said Osaka, who had already made history along with men’s semi-finalist Kei Nishikori as the first Japanese man and woman to reach the last four at the Slam. “It still feels really weird because I’ve never beaten Madison before,” she said. “I’m just glad I was able to get through this match.” - Her overriding aim as she served for the match: “Don’t double fault”.

Osaka won her only prior meeting with Williams, in the first round at Miami in March -- the American star’s second tournament since giving birth. “I definitely wasn’t at my best,” said Williams, now in her seventh tournament back.
As in her semi-final win over Karolina Pliskova, Williams took a while to warm up, dropping her serve in the opening game.But she was back on terms after a break for 2-2, getting the break when Sevastova’s attempt at a drop shot from deep in the court failed to make it over the net.

From there Williams was on the attack, winning 24 of 28 points at the net. After breaking again for a 4-2 lead she produced a convincing hold that featured the first of her four aces. Serving for the first set she opened with a 120 mph (193 Km/h) ace and Sevastova was out of answers. “I’ve been working hard on my volleys,” Williams said of her aggressive game plan.”



Nadal, Djokovic one win away from renewing rivalry



DEFENDING U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal and twice winner Novak Djokovic are one victory away from renewing their rivalry in the final with both expected to get through their semis . World number one Nadal faces big-serving Argentine third seed Juan Martin del Potro while sixth seed Novak Djokovic meets Japanese 21st seed Kei Nishikori bidding to secure a seventh trip to the showcase match at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal, who survived a gruelling late-night battle with Austrian Dominic Thiem in punishing humidity to reach the last four, has a commanding 11-5 career record against Del Potro with his last loss coming in the semis at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Spaniard, who beat Del Potro this year in French Open semi-finals and Wimbledon quarter-finals, has looked nothing short of brilliant but is not about to get ahead of himself as the pair have split their 10 meetings on hard courts.

“He (Del Potro) is a great player everywhere. But the challenge of playing him on hard (courts) of course is even higher for me personally than playing against him on clay,” said Nadal, who has three U.S. Opens among his 17 Grand Slam titles. “It will be a big challenge. It’s a match in which we know each other very well. I know he’s playing well. I know I’ll have to play at my highest level to keep having chances of success.” Del Potro will rely heavily on his service having won 83 percent of his first service points through five matches here, well above anyone else remaining in the men’s draw.


Jumbo sized tennis balls popular with fans



OVERSIZED tennis balls have become synonymous with the US Open like New York City streets and traffic, with the felt-covered souvenirs providing fans a keepsake and can’t-miss target for player autographs.  Whether at the completion of a featured match or practice session on a faraway court, a tangle of children’s outstretched arms can always be seen reaching over walls or gates in the hope a player will sign their giant souvenir.

Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Company, which has provided the official US Open match ball since 1978, rolled out the novelty version, measuring 11 inches (27.94 cm) in diameter, about 10 years ago and they were an instant hit.
“The jumbo ball is the most visible and, by far, the most wanted piece of memorabilia on the U.S. Open grounds,” Mary Wallace, Director of Special Events for Wilson, told Reuters at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the year’s final Grand Slam. The balls, which this year come in yellow or orange, are manufactured in Asia and retail for $45, including a Sharpie marker for wide-eyed autograph hounds.

Wallace said about 10,000 of the ubiquitous balls will have been sold on site by the time the US Open ends on Sunday, or more than three times the total aces served up by the game’s greatest players during the two-week event. Anyone attending the US Open can barely take two steps inside the gates without spotting one of the oversized balls cradled under the arm of a preteen boy or girl armed with a permanent marker in one hand.

New Jersey native Jason Mellor was standing near an outside court while his nine-year-old son Dillon clutched an oversized orange ball while waiting for a nearby match to finish so he could pounce on the players for autographs.