US Open Women’s Final Preview: Back Williams for a Straight-sets Win5 min read
Serena Williams v Naomi Osaka (Saturday, 2100 BST)
Serena Williams will go chasing yet more history when she takes on Grand Slam final debutante Naomi Osaka on Saturday in New York.
The 36-year-old American will equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles if she wins the match – and she is a strong favourite to do just that with the market making her a 2/5 shot.
That will bring its own pressure – and who can forget Williams’ calendar-year Grand Slam dream going up in smoke in stunning fashion against Roberta Vinci here three years ago? – but on the other side of the net, young gun Osaka will to have deal with the new experience of a major final. She is 11/5 to pull off the upset.
Will the ocassion get to Osaka?
I write about how several players have been caught like a rabbit in the headlights against Serena in my semi-final preview and Anastasija Sevastova couldn’t cope on Thursday night. However, I’m not overly concerned about Osaka on that score – she’s a pretty relaxed character and if there’s one player who won’t let the situation get on top of her, it’s the 20-year-old.
Another boost is that, unlike Sevastova, Osaka has faced Williams before and actually brings a winning head-to-head record into the contest.
Osaka beat Williams in straight sets in Miami earlier this year although that was just the second tournament of Serena’s comeback following the birth of her daughter. The fact Osaka went off even money that day says much and it’s fair to say this is a different player she’ll be facing six months on.
Route to the final
Both women have been highly impressive en route to the final and some of their stats are remarkably similar.
The duo have exactly the same record at the tournament when it comes to break points converted – they’ve each created 46 and won 27 of those.
Serena has broken her opponent’s serve at least four times in every round, notably doing so against the big-serving Karolina Pliskova. Osaka has broken at least three times each round.
The women's final is set!
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2018
On their own serve, few breaks have been given up – Serena having lost her delivery on six occasions, Osaka only four. The Japanese has actually held serve throughout four of her six matches.
Such stats make a tie-break in the match a tempting bet at 9/4 but long-term season stats are very off-putting – Serena has played only two breakers in 20 matches this year, Osaka six in 46.
A stat I think that could be most significant comes from Osaka’s semi-final with Madison Keys. She didn’t lose her serve but did have to save a remarkable 13 break points in that encounter.
Second serve key to Osaka chances
Like Keys, Williams will look to go after her returns and Osaka will need to keep impressing on second serve – she’s won 59 per cent of points on it so far, the best of the tournament of those who have played more than one match – to keep her hopes alive.
If Keys can force 13 break points in nine games, I’m pretty sure Williams will be able to threaten Osaka too and it’s hard to envisage her failing to convert.
It is this aspect which pushes me towards Williams, with a straight-sets win offered at 20/21.
Throw in the experience factor and that’s my recommended bet – nothing original I’m afraid but hopefully one which can add to our tournament profits.
Williams to win 2-0 at