Serena seeks a record-tying title, Osaka a first at US Open


The similarities between the two are striking. "From my name, they don't expect to see a black girl". While she was born in Japan, her family moved to the United States when she was three years old and she grew up idolizing Williams.

The 19th-ranked Sevastova won the first two games, but she'd win only one more the rest of the match as Williams rattled off four wins in a row en route to a 6-3 first-set win.

Playing under Japan's flag, Osaka trains under the helm of her coach Sascha Bajin who is incidentally Williams' former hitting partner. Like Williams, Osaka too is best on hard courts - something the numbers back up. We've said it so many times, I don't know if it's lost its meaning. In what is a good omen for her, that serve came at the 2016 US Open.

You can stream the match via Watch ESPN.

After her victory, Osaka was asked how she was able to play well Keys at several critical moments of the game.

Nishikori, the first man representing an Asian country to make a Grand Slam final, was asked if he had any advice for Osaka. At present, she is 21-0. So, how did the match end in her dream? Into the finals now, she has 64.

Osaka, 20 and in the last four at a Slam for the first time, admitted she was driven by the idea of facing Williams. But that's the key for the 20-year-old: remaining patient throughout the match, even when Serena breaks, while continuing to apply pressure with her serve.

"It still feels a little bit, like, surreal".

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Unlike Kerber, the only remaining contenders have no experience of lifting a major title, with Naomi Osaka making her debut in the semi-finals of a Slam, though Madison Keys was a runner-up in Flushing Meadows in 2017. Sevastova won just 3 net points (out of 6, for 50%).

"You're in that match and you think, 'Okay, she's going to let up eventually.' She didn't, so all credit to her..."

Osaka, who began the season as world number 68, steamrolled her way into her first Grand Slam semi-final with a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko. Hopefully I won't play like that again. The American has been calm, collected and consistent, but still manages to maintain the on-court aggression and drive that has had her leading the game for the past two decades. She'll be going for her sixth on Saturday.

Williams defeated her sister Venus in the final - the first time the sisters met in a Grand Slam final since 2009 at Wimbledon.

Another couple of breaks followed as she fed the Latvian a bagel, and the American will contest her 31st major final at the weekend.

Osaka played Williams earlier this year in Miami, Florida. Williams blanched, and chose to spend a few more weeks at home with her family.

Saturday's final will be a battle of perseverance, grit and true longevity against a new young claimant to the title. "I know I will have more chances in life", she said. "I'm still on my way up".