In a battle of the young guns, 2017 runner-up Madison Keys takes on Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka for a place in the US Open final. It has not been quite the season Keys was hoping for, though she did also reach the semifinals at Roland Garros, but with the crowd behind her she will consider herself as having a real chance of going all the way in the Big Apple. But Osaka has been in scintillating form herself. Will it be a triumph for the Stars and Stripes or the Rising Sun?
This will be the fourth meeting between Keys and Osaka, and their second at the US Open. Keys is yet to lose. Their first meeting was in New York in the third round two years ago and it proved to be a thriller, but one from which Keys emerged a 7-5 4-6 7-6 victor. They faced off again last year in Indian Wells, again in the third round, and Keys won comfortably 6-1 6-4. In their most recent match, which came earlier this year in Paris, Keys started well before edging the second set to take a 6-1 7-6 win.
Path to the semifinals
Keys began her US Open campaign with a confident 6-4 6-4 win over Pauline Parmentier before dismissing her compatriot Bernarda Pera 6-4 6-1. She then dropped the first set to Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic but battled back to claim a 4-6 6-1 6-2 win. 29th seed Dominika Cibulkova, who had upset fourth seed Angelique Kerber in the third round, gave her little trouble in a 6-1 6-3 Keys win. She then reached the last four courtesy of a 6-4 6-3 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
Osaka has been all but unstoppable so far in New York. She opened her tournament with a 6-2 6-3 win over Laura Siegemund before crushing Julia Glushko 6-2 6-0 in the second round. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who bested Kvitova at Wimbledon, fared even worse and had to endure a humbling 0-6 0-6 loss. Osaka was tested for the first time by New Haven champion Aryna Sabalenka in the round of 16, but she won out 6-3 2-6 6-4 before hammering Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
There should be no shortage of winners in this match. Both Keys and Osaka have been willing to go big and go big early throughout their careers and this tournament has been no different. Keys ability to hit winners even from deep in the court is one of her most impressive attributes and one that Osaka will need to be wary of. The Illinoian is most comfortable on her forehand, but she can also do damage with her backhand which makes her incredibly difficult to attack.
But Osaka has some serious weapons of her own. She has hit 84 winners already this tournament and caused a number of forced errors besides. She also showed impressive tactical awareness against Sabalenka to take some of the pace off her shots against Sabalenka and invite the Belarusian to make more errors, in which Sabalenka duly obliged. That said, in Keys Osaka faces one of the few players capable of matching her blow for blow and not missing.
Both players have looked formidable so far and driven every opponent they have yet faced off the court. But with the courts at the US Open playing fairly slowly this year, they have favoured the bigger hitters and the majority of matches and in this contest that edge surely belongs to Osaka, even if not by a particularly large margin. Expect the Japanese to deliver again and for her impressive firepower to see her just edge out Keys in three.