Osaka is a prodigy who grew to become one of many greatest stars in tennis after beating Williams two years in the past within the 2018 U.S. Open ultimate. Brady turned professional comparatively late after spending two years at U.C.L.A., and was making her debut in a Grand Slam semifinal.
Osaka has performed with a medical bandage all through the event round her left leg to shield a sore hamstring. She has additionally been outspoken all through the summer season about ending systemic racism and police violence towards Black folks, particularly as tennis has returned from the pandemic.
Two weeks in the past, after seeing the Milwaukee Bucks of the N.B.A. and groups in a number of skilled sports activities leagues resolve to sit out their scheduled video games, Osaka introduced that she wouldn’t play her semifinal match on the Western & Southern Open, a warm-up to the U.S. Open. Tournament officers then postponed all play for a day, permitting Osaka to proceed. She superior to the ultimate however then conceded the match due to lingering hamstring soreness, leading to Azarenka successful in a walkover.
During the U.S. Open, Osaka has worn Black Lives Matter T-shirts and masks with the names of Black individuals who have been killed, some by police. She stated she started the U.S. Open with seven completely different masks, one for every match, together with the ultimate. Osaka’s breakout title in 2018 is usually remembered for Serena Williams’s argument with an umpire after she was given a code violation for receiving teaching throughout the match, then some extent penalty for slamming her racket to the concrete. Osaka beat Williams that evening in straight units — and the followers had been clearly on Williams’s facet.
It was exhausting not to think about what this evening might need been like in one other yr, with 23,000 followers packed into Arthur Ashe Stadium, their roars echoing off the closed roof. Instead, followers weren’t allowed to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The vacancy gave manner to one thing else — the end result of greater than 4 hours of fearless, tight, solo competitors, with a particular purity. There was what was taking place on the court docket and nothing else.
And when Azarenka lastly completed it off, with one final ace on the surface fringe of the road, successful by a fraction of an inch so shut that Williams had challenged the decision, it was too dangerous it had to finish. Especially for Williams, whose hunt for that 24th main goes on.