Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka will both be looking to capture a third Grand Slam title when they clash in the final of the behind-closed-doors US Open on Saturday.
For Osaka, the fourth seed, it would be a third tennis major trophy in two years. For Azarenka, a former world number one, it would be a first since 2013.
It’s a matchup between one of the game’s young stars, going from strength to strength, and a veteran whose career is rejuvenated after several years in the doldrums.
The 22-year-old Osaka, her profile rapidly rising due to a combination of powerful tennis and Black Lives Matter activism, says she’s better prepared than when she stunned Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final.
“I would say I feel like my mindset is much different this time around,” said Japan’s Osaka, following her three-set semi-final win over American Jennifer Brady.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much through the ups and downs, not even counting the finals, but just regular tour tournaments.
“I would say mentally I feel stronger. I feel fitter now. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” Osaka added.
Osaka, of Japanese and Haitian heritage, is wearing different masks honoring victims of racial injustice and police brutality throughout the tournament.
The 2019 Australian Open champion has donned face coverings bearing the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Philando Castile.
She will wear another on Saturday for the Arthur Ashe showdown, which will take place without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I do think it’s a very big motivating factor for me just to try to, like, get the names out to as many people as I can,” Osaka said.
Azarenka, 31, is brimming with confidence after coming from a set down to stun her old rival Williams and book a third US Open final.
It will be her first appearance in the final of a tennis major since Williams beat her in the last-two of the US Open in 2013