Serena Williams, 36, will square off against 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in the final of the US Open on Saturday in what will be a ‘Clash of Generations’.
Serena won her first US Open title when Osaka was only a year old. 19 years later now, both of them will do battle to claim that same title, while standing on the precipice of history.
For Serena, it will be a 24th Grand Slam crown, to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record. It also, will be her first as a mother, one that will see her become the fourth on an exclusive list of players to clinch a Grand Slam title after returning from maternity leave, and that isn’t all. It will be a seventh US Open title, the most in the Open Era by any player. She will also become the oldest woman to be crowned Grand Slam champion, breaking her own record!
Naomi Osaka, meanwhile, became the first Japanese woman to reach the final of a Grand Slam event after she outclassed last year’s finalist, Madison Keys in the semifinal. For Osaka, victory will see her become the first Japanese player (man or woman) to win a Grand Slam title.
At 20, Osaka is already a national hero, having endeared herself to many with her calm demeanour, while unleashing terror on packed fields with admirable confidence and an excellent game plan. Can she now go a step better and etch her name in the annals of history by beating Serena Williams?
“Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam,” Osaka said. “Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it.
“At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. Yeah, I shouldn’t really think of her as, like, my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.”
A year after giving birth, Serena has beaten life-threatening complications to return to tour and has done remarkably well to reach her second Grand Slam final. The 36-year-old has dropped just a set all fortnight, and even though she said she’s not yet close to her best, looks the favourite to claim the title.
But Osaka defeated Williams in their only previous meeting in Miami in April, in what was Williams’ second tournament in over a year. And though the great American has come a long way since then, Osaka has the needed confidence and game to make this final an even, gripping contest. They will match each other shot for shot, power for power. Serena has never lacked confidence. Osaka, too, is brimming with it at the moment. If there was to be cracking final match up, this is it.
History beckons for both women, who will respond?