Naomi Osaka ended Victoria Azarenka’s dream run to claim her second U.S. Open title in three years with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 comeback win on Saturday.
The win cemented her status as the sport’s leading light both on and off the court.
Unlike the 22-year-old Japanese’s first U.S. Open win in 2018 over Serena Williams, which was played in a frothing Arthur Ashe Stadium, Saturday’s drama unfolded in a strangely quiet arena.
COVID-19 health and safety protocols had prevented fans from entering the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.
But the lack of buzz around the stands did not stop the two former world number one players from producing a dazzling display of shot-making.
As Osaka walked off with a third Grand Slam title, Azarenka was denied a U.S. Open crown for a third time, having also finished runner-up in 2012 and 2013.
Still, it was a remarkable and unexpected run for the 31-year-old Belarusian, who reached her first major final in seven years.
It was the second time in two weeks Azarenka, twice a winner at the Australian Open, and Osaka had set up a final showdown.
The pair had been set to meet in the Western and Southern Open final on Aug. 29 until Osaka withdrew due to a hamstring injury.
“I actually don’t want to play you in more finals,” Osaka told Azarenka with a smile during the victory ceremony.
“I didn’t really enjoy that.
“That was a really tough match for me.