Naomi Osaka put in a sensational performance as she came from behind to beat Victoria Azarenka to win the US Open on Saturday night. Osaka won 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 at Flushing Meadows, and was full of praise for Azarenka afterwards.
Osaka had a nightmare start in New York as she dropped the first set in brutal fashion. She failed to get any rhythm going and fell victim to her own mistakes as she made multiple unforced errors.
Azarenka, on the other hand, started brilliantly and wasted no time in rushing to a 3-1 lead in games as she more than held her own against the 22-year-old.
After the first set, it appeared the final would be over before it even began, as Osaka looked flustered compared to the experienced Azarenka.
Azarenka took the first game of the second set after recovering from a brief blip, and appeared to be dealing with the pressure immensely.
After going 2-0 down in the second set, few thought Osaka had any hope of mounting a comeback, as she appeared to have no answer for the more experienced Azarenka.
But the young phenom embarked on a comeback for the ages and appeared to find her feet in the match.
Even when she was 40-15 down in the final game of the set she refused to be beaten and fought her way back to deuce, before producing some fine tennis to end the 16-point game and level the match.
The third set was another close affair, with Osaka winning the opening game – her seventh of the last eight – to give herself the advantage.
Osaka entered the Arthur Ashe stadium wearing a face mask with Tamir Rice’s name printed across the front. Rice, a 12-year old boy from Cleveland, was shot dead by police in 2014.
The young tennis megastar had been using the US Open to advocate for an end to racism and police brutality, and wore similar face masks ahead of every one of her games, with different names of victims of police brutality printed on them.
When she was asked about the message she was trying to get across, the newly-crowned champion was straight to the point.
She replied: “What was the message that you got?
“That’s more the question. The point is to make people start talking.”