NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two-times Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka reached the U.S. Open final for the second time in her career with a thrilling 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3 victory over American hope Jennifer Brady on Thursday.
Brady arrived at her first Grand Slam semi-final without having dropped a set in New York and did not show any nerves but Osaka’s firepower allowed her to get by the 28th seed.
Fourth seed Osaka, who won the first of two consecutive Grand Slam titles two years ago in New York, fired 35 winners and had 17 unforced errors as steady rain pounded on the roof of an otherwise quiet Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Osaka will play either third seed Serena Williams or former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the final.
“I really love the atmosphere even though there’s sadly no people here,” said Osaka. “This court really suits me well.”
Osaka set the tone early when she served out to love to open the match but she soon learned she had a battle on her hands as a composed Brady came out swinging in a contest that featured just six break-point opportunities.
Japanese world number nine Osaka turned aside a break point while serving at 3-3 in the first stanza, held at love to get ahead 5-4 and then ran away in the tiebreak to close out a set in which she made just four unforced errors.
Brady, however, was not rattled and dropped only four points through her first four service games of the second set before securing the first break of the match for a 5-3 lead that she would consolidate to force a decider.
From there it was all Osaka, who built on an early break to lead 4-1 before going on to seal the match as Brady, whose previous best Grand Slam performances came in 2017 when she reached the fourth round in Melbourne and New York.
Osaka’s victory sends her back to the Flushing Meadows final, where in 2018 she beat Williams in a match that saw the American become involved in a series of confrontations with the chair umpire.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford)