Today at 4 P.M., Eastern Time, Naomi Osaka faces Serena Williams in the Final of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, NY. They have met once, earlier in the year at a Masters event in Miami, FL. It was in the round of 128 on a hard court and Osaka was streaking having just won the “5th Grand Slam” at Indian Wells, another American hard court event. Osaka, though born in Japan, is largely American, speaking English without an accent and living in the U.S. since the age of three. She has a dual citizenship. In essence she is on home ground when she plays in Indian Wells, Miami or NY.
Serena is on a magnificent trail of recovering from the delivery of her beautiful daughter but with pulmonary complications following delivery. She had had medical problems prior related to pulmonary embolism and is an individual prone to throwing blood clots to her lungs generally from her legs. The emboli are potentially lethal.
Naomi appeared to have ice water running through her vascular system in her beautifully played semifinal against last year’s finalist, Madison Keys. It was a straight set victory. One thing about youth, there isn’t much water under the bridge. In other words the traumatic losses that can cause the “yips” in older players can be non-existent in the younger player, i.e. Serena’s only loss to Maria Sharapova when Maria was a teenager at Wimbledon.
Serena is 36, but, she has little water on the bridge as she has won 23 majors. She has shown the greatest ability in the history of tennis to weather the storms of pressure. In my eighth decade I have never seen a female athlete in her universe.
But Serena is 36. Her opponent is 20. Naomi beat her badly, i.e. in straight sets, when they played in a significant event, a Masters, in Miami as noted. Osaka can equal her in power and speed anywhere on the court, has great presence of mind and is cool under pressure. She looks down on Serena when they shake hands at 5 ft. 11 inches in height.All that said, I think the match is a toss-up. That’s why they play and that’s why many of us will watch. Enjoy the fireworks. This one should be a barn burner.
H. Robert Rubin, M.D., memoirist and author of two books available on Amazon, Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This?