New York (AFP)
Defending champion Naomi Osaka is aiming for her third US Open title in four tries as the final Grand Slam of the year begins on Monday with Wimbledon winner Ashleigh Barty leading a host of rivals.
What is uncertain is whether New York will see Osaka rediscover the dominant form that saw them win the last two Grand Slam tournaments they played until the end.
The 23-year-old Japanese star lit the flame in the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo Games, but only made two appearances from Japan before the Open.
“I know there are a lot of things I need to fix in my game so in a weird way I’m pretty glad I lost because there are so many things I want to fix before New York” , Osaka said. .
“I feel like my level isn’t that far… if I want to continue to be more positive with myself, I have to think about things that I could improve. There are certainly a lot of things. “
Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros after being fined for not speaking to reporters after her first game, claiming it damaged her mental health. She then skipped Wimbledon but spoke to the media after her tune-up matches at the US Open in Cincinnati.
“I felt like it was something I had to do for myself,” Osaka said. “I’m proud of what I did and I think it was something that needed to be done.
“Sometimes we feel really sad, and I feel like maybe there should be a rule that maybe we can take a sick day (answer questions). “
Osaka won the US Open title last year by beating Victoria Azarenka in the final, becoming the first woman since 1994 to rally by a set to win the US Open final.
At this year’s Australian Open, Osaka saved match points against Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the fourth round and beat 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the semi-finals before beating Jen Brady in the final.
Osaka, ranked third, won their first four Grand Slam finals, behind only Roger Federer’s streak of seven and six by Monica Seles for the best start in the Slam Final in the Open Era (since 1968).
Barty, in her 83rd consecutive week at the top of the world rankings, picked up victories at Wimbledon and Cincinnati, putting her in better shape to enter the Flushing Meadows fortnight.
The 25-year-old Australian’s 2021 titles also include Miami, Melbourne and Stuttgart and took her career tally to 13.
“I feel comfortable and ready,” Barty said. “I feel good, I feel ready. It has certainly been a big year and we still have a little way to go. “
Barty won her first major title at Roland Garros 2019 and her second trophy in London put her halfway in a Grand Slam career.
“I hadn’t even thought about it,” Barty said. “It took me 25 years to get the first two, so let’s hope it won’t take another 25 to get the next two. We will stop there. “
– Serena pushed aside –
Williams, who has not played a competitive hard-court game since losing to Osaka in February, will not play in New York due to a tear to his right hamstring suffered in a first round match at Wimbledon .
“After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to fully heal from a hamstring tear,” said Williams Wednesday on Instagram.
Williams, who turns 40 next month, remains a little short of Margaret Court’s all-time record with 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
An impressive collection of 20-year-old rivals among the top 10 in the world will aim for the trophy.
The group includes the Czech Barbora Krejcikova, champion of Roland-Garros; Wimbledon semi-finalist, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka; Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic; Sofia Kenin, the winner of the Australian Open 2020; Canadian Bianca Andreescu, the 2020 US Open winner who skipped last year’s event; Roland-Garros 2020 champion Iga Swiatek from Poland and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Elina Svitolina from Ukraine.
© 2021 AFP