In Williams-Osaka Reboot, a Buffer Between U.S. Opens


TORONTO — It was not so much a tennis rematch as a reboot, a chance for Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka to face off without the static and sideshow that marred their United States Open final 11 months ago.

They met Friday night in a Rogers Cup quarterfinal, together on court for the first time since Osaka’s straight-sets victory in Queens, with results that could not have been more different.

This time, the only fireworks came off Williams’s racket, as her bludgeoning power yielded 12 aces to Osaka’s none in a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Williams did not face a break point throughout the match, the third of her career against Osaka and the only one in which the elder triumphed.

“I knew her game a little bit more, so that’s a little easier,” Williams, 37, said. “And, you know, I’m just over all a little bit better.”

When Osaka, 21, learned she would be facing Williams again, she beamed. “I mean she’s my tennis mom,” Osaka said. “She’s someone I grew up watching.”

Both of them had to be relieved to get this meeting out of the way before they return at the end of the month to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where Osaka will begin her U.S. Open title defense; Williams will pursue her first championship in more than two years; and both of them will certainly be forced to relive one of the most emotionally harrowing matches in tennis history.

Williams vigorously protested the officiating in that final, losing a point and then a game to penalties that she attributed, in part, to sexism. And Osaka, in her moment of victory, wept. She initially thought the crowd’s boos were for her rather than for the chair umpire who had punished Williams.

Read more…