Osaka wins US Open to confirm status as new star

MATTHEW STOCKMAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Naomi Osaka cemented her status as the sport's leading light both on and off the court, by winning the US Open title on Saturday.

She ended Victoria Azarenka's dream run to claim her second US Open title in three years with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 comeback win.

Unlike the 22-year-old Japanese's first US 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 as COVID-19 health and safety protocols prevented fans from entering the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

But the lack of buzz around the stands did not stop the two former world number ones from producing a dazzling display of shot making.

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 August 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.

"And yes, really inspiring for me because I used to watch you play here when I was younger so just to have the opportunity to play you is really great and I learned a lot."

The presentation ceremony showed the precautions everyone has had to take during the COVID-19 era, with the two finalists having to pick up their respective prizes themselves from a table placed on court, while everyone stood socially distant for the obligatory photocall.

As she has done in every match over the past fortnight, Osaka appeared on court with her left thigh strapped and a facemask with the name of a Black American victim of police brutality or racial injustice.

For the final, it was Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot by police in 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a playgound.

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