It’s the semi-finals of the US Open in New York City where we are all looking forward to two fantastic woman’s singles matches.
Osaka Can End Brady Run
Osaka to win 2-0
Naomi Osaka looks to be running into form at the right moment given the way she has dismantled both Shelby Rogers and Anett Kontaveit in the last two rounds.
She lost just 12 service points against Rogers and nine v Kontaveit and the former champion looks ready for the test which will come from the in-form Brady.
The American has been in fine form herself – she’s yet to drop a set in the tournament – but she’s also had a nagging hamstring injury which required extensive treatment against Angelique Kerber the other day and will likely again be heavily strapped.
She’s powered her way past all-comers so far in New York, continuing what had already been an excellent, pre-COVID season.
But Osaka’s level will be higher than anything she’s faced yet and the Japanese’s fearsome delivery may well restrict Brady’s chances to get the first strike in, which has helped her so often in previous matches.
If fully fit, Brady’s form suggests she will compete but the head says Osaka will prevail here with a straight-sets win offering a hint of value at 11/10.
Another potential bet to consider is a first-set tie-break at 15/4.
Both players have strong serves and in their combined 10 matches at the tournament, the have lost serve only 10 times.
The first serve will hold sway a lot and so if the first-serve percentage is kept fairly high, this is a bet which could well land.
Azarenka Can End Serena’s History Bid
Azarenka to win 2-1
After three consecutive three-set wins, Serena Williams is closing in on history at the US Open.
Two more victories will see her tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
But now it also gets even tougher, old rival Azarenka standing in her path – and this is often when the pressure really kicks in for Williams. Who can forget her shock semi-final loss to Roberta Vinci here when the 2015 Grand Slam was in sight?
Then there’s also the four successive final defeats which have occurred since she became a mother in 2017.
In this match she faces a fellow mum, one who has been enjoying a major resurgence over the past few weeks.
With her excellent baseline game, the Belarusian has beaten some good names since arriving in New York – her latest victim, Elise Mertens, won just a single game in Wednesday night’s quarter-final.
New she renews what once was a great rivalry for in the first half of the 2010s, Azarenka was a player who tested Williams more than anyone.
They’ve met just once since becoming mothers, Williams winning 7-5 6-3 in Indian Wells last year, but in their 11 matches prior to that (stretching back to the 2012 final here), seven went to three sets, Azarenka winning three. She saved her wins for big matches too – finals of big events in Indian Wells, Cincinnati and Doha. Significantly, all were on her favoured hardcourts.
While Williams has been displaying her renowned fighting spirit in her wins over Sloane Stephens, Maria Sakkari and Tsvetana Pironkova, the fact she’s not dominated them – as she arguably would have done in years gone by – will give Azarenka massive hope.
Her ability to deal with the Williams serve and power off the ground should give her great chance.
Sadly, the layers now agree – she’s only even money, a slightly bigger price than she was to beat Mertens.
Still, I can see Azarenka thriving again and with the pressure now firmly on Williams, it may well be she has to wait, once again, for that elusive 24th title.
Another three-set encounter could easily unfold with Azarenka 15/4 to win 2-1 looking good given how close the pair’s matches have consistently been.
Azarenka to Win The Title
Osaka heads the outright betting ahead of the semis at 13/10 with Williams next at 21/10.
However, the value appears to lie with Azarenka at this stage – she’s a 7/2 chance.
She trails most likely final foe Osaka 2-1 on the head-to-head but the Japan star’s two wins both came on clay, the most recent 7-5 in the third at last year’s French Open.
Azarenka has improved since that battle and, seven years after losing in the final for the second title, looks capable of finally winning the US Open.