By Jake Davies
- Five Reasons why Naomi Osaka will win US Open 2018
NEW YORK, USA – Naomi Osaka made her Grand Slam breakthrough over this fortnight reaching her first Grand Slam final and we took a look at the five reasons why she will prevail in Saturday’s final.
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Nothing to lose, but all to gain
Naomi Osaka comes in as the underdog in this particular match-up, which should allow her to swing freely for her ground-strokes, put into practice the winning formula that she’s found over these last two weeks and play as if she has absolutely nothing to lose. Not many people are truly expecting the Japanese to cause the upset due to Williams’ big match experience and her exemplary Grand Slam finals record. (Williams is 23-7 in Grand Slam finals and only five players have beaten her in a major final)
Osaka can bottle her experience of beating Serena earlier this year
Another reason that points in the direction of Osaka coming up trumps in the final is the fact that she has already beaten her idol Serena Williams in the past. Osaka attained the biggest title of her career in Indian Wells then followed that up by beating Williams with the loss of just five games in the opening round of the Miami Open just days after.
Those winning feelings against the 23-time slam champion will prove invaluable. It shows that Osaka can put her feelings to one side to get over the finish line against the player she idolised growing up and it also showed that she can back up a series of big wins and perform the tournament after. It will surely be a new feeling as Osaka contests a major final for the first time, which changes the dynamic slightly, but Osaka knows that she has the game to upset Williams and that changes everything.
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Coach Sascha Bajin’s presence could be the difference-maker
The appointment of Sascha Bajin as full-time coach has made a huge difference to Osaka’s game and to her overall outlook on and off the court. Bajin who has previous experience of working with Williams herself for eight years and also brief spells with Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki to name a few, has really bought into the job and the task of really turning Osaka into a talented player with bags of potential to being a regular at the business end of the Grand Slam events and within a year of working together they are one step away from achieving one of their long term goals.
Bajin is a really fun but patient presence that really has focused on the long-term plan of not only making sure that Osaka can deliver her best level on the court, but mainly he has really made a difference in ensuring the 20-year-old is content with things off the court and that is why the results have got even better in the 2018 season.
Bajin knows Williams’ game inside-out. He worked as her hitting partner for nearly a decade so he will understand what makes the American tick and what approach can get under her skin in order to help his charge cause some serious waves and get her first maiden title.
Osaka is more of a complete player than she was 12 months ago
If there is anything that we have learned about Osaka over the course of this tournament it is that she has added extra layers to her game in order to shape a greater champion. We often talk about the 20-year-old as a power player that likes to overwhelm her opponent off both wings, but these two weeks have demonstrated that Osaka can work her way into a point, she can trade to wait for the right opportunity to strike and she can sense the way that a match is turning and she displayed that against Lesia Tsurenko in the quarter-final. Tennis is not only about implementing your game plan to the best of your ability, but it is about having the know-how and the tennis IQ to change that plan just by the way the match is unravelling. Osaka has shown bags of that en route to the final.
The start of the match is everything for Osaka
Osaka really has to start well in this match-up. If she does make a positive start in the scoreboard then it will allow her to grow into the match and enable her to believe that anything is possible. We’ve seen great players playing maiden Grand Slam finals over the years that have simply frozen in the spotlight and that is largely down to their inability to grow into a match. A prime example of that is Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon in 2013 in her loss to Marion Bartoli.
Another reason why Osaka has to play well from the very beginning is because Williams is one of the best frontrunners in the game and often when you give her an advantage – even the most slender of advantages – in the scoreboard then she really makes you pay and continues to push home the advantage. The start of the match is important to both, because both will have nerves in a major final, but it means that much more to Osaka.
The US Open Women’s Singles final takes place on Arthur Ashe Stadium, not before 4pm (9pm BST).
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