storms past Keys to reach first Grand Slam final
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[September 07, 2018]
By Simon Jennings
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Naomi Osaka
announced her arrival on the big stage at the U.S. Open on Thursday,
beating last year's runner-up Madison Keys 6-2 6-4 to reach her
first Grand Slam final and set up a clash with her childhood idol
The 20-year-old Osaka, who is the first Japanese woman to reach a
singles final of a Grand Slam, had to fight harder than the score
suggested to get past 14th seed Keys, who paid the price for a lack
of killer instinct.
The American carved out 13 break point opportunities, but Osaka
saved all of them and was far more clinical herself, converting
three of the four chances that came her way.
"This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking I really
want to play Serena," Osaka said in an on-court interview. "I love
you (Serena). I love everybody.
"It feels a little bit surreal," she added to reporters. "Even when
I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a
final of a Grand Slam.
"At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this
moment, I should still think of it as another match. I shouldn't
really think of her as my idol. I should just try to play her as an
Osaka won her first career title at Indian Wells this year but had
never beaten Keys before in three attempts and lost to the American
at Flushing Meadows in 2016.
"It still feels really weird because I've never beaten Madison
before," Osaka said. "She's a really good player... I thought I was
visibly shaking and stuff (from nervousness)."
The nerves surfaced when the Japanese found herself trailing 0-40 in
her second service game, but she managed to keep it together,
battling back to deuce and saving another break point to hold and
level the opener at 2-2.
The roles were reversed in the next game.
[to top of second column]
Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates match point against Madison Keys of
the United States in a women's semi-final match on day eleven of the
2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National
Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY
Osaka carved out two break points and although Keys saved the first
one, she forced an error on the American's forehand to take a 3-2
The Japanese saved two more break points in her next service game
and then it was Keys's turn to get rattled.
The American made three unforced errors as she lost her serve to
love. Osaka found herself serving for the set and she closed it out
in 37 minutes.
"I felt like if I could break, maybe I could get back into it," Keys
said. "Every time I had a break point, it was an ace or a winner or
something like that (from Osaka).
"You keep fighting... then for her to come up with some of those
shots, it was difficult ... You think, okay, she's going to let up
eventually, but she didn't, so all credit to her."
Keys emerged for the second set with an air of determination but she
surrendered her serve in the first game with her 21st unforced error
of the match.
That was the tipping point and Osaka wrapped up the win in one hour,
26 minutes with a service winner, breaking into a smile as the ball
flew off the frame of Keys' racquet and into the crowd.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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