Two years after Keys' stunning comeback, Osaka gets a US Open rematch

by: | September 06, 2018

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Daily Mix: On Naomi Osaka's run to the final four at Flushing Meadows

Two years ago, two of the most promising and most powerful young stars in women’s tennis took to Arthur Ashe Stadium for a third-round clash. It featured promise, power—and an astonishing comeback. Madison Keys battled back from a 5-1 deficit in the third set to edge Naomi Osaka, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3).

On Thursday night, the two will square off on the same court for a spot in the US Open final.

Going this deep at a Grand Slam is nothing new for Keys. She make it all the way to the US Open final last year, beating CoCo Vandeweghe in the semifinals before falling to Sloane Stephens, and has been to two other Grand Slam semifinals, at the 2015 Australian Open (falling to Serena Williams) and at this year's French Open (again falling to Stephens).

For the 23-year-old American, getting to this stage—and beyond—is simply all about experience.

“I think it’s just doing it,” Keys said after her 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Carla Suarez Navarro.

“I’ve had some big moments before that I was losing, and I was probably putting too much pressure on myself. I’ve learned from those experiences—just having a better mentality about the situation and remembering what my game plan is, and just focusing on that instead of the actual occasion.”

Osaka, meanwhile, had never even been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this run. Her best result at a Slams had been a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open this year (falling to Simona Halep).

She reached the final eight with a win over New Haven champion Aryna Sabalenka, and cruised past Lesia Tsurenko on Wednesday, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career.

The 20-year-old is now the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in more than 22 years. The last Japanese woman to go this far at a Slam was Kimiko Date at Wimbledon in 1996.

But like Keys, Osaka is trying to avoid putting too much pressure on herself.

“I feel like every young person playing wants to win a Grand Slam and they want to be No. 1, so of course that’s my goal,” Osaka said. “But again, I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself. I know I’m in a position that I can possibly do that, but I want to really think that I’m grateful to be in the position that I’m in in the first place, and I really just want to take it, like, one point at a time.

“The players at these final stages are really good. I know everyone wants to win this tournament.”

Keys leads the overall head-to-head with Osaka, 3-0. Keys won at Indian Wells last year, 6-1, 6-4, and at the French Open this year, 6-1, 7-6 (7).

Before Keys and Osaka square off, Serena Williams plays Anastasija Sevastova in the first semifinal.

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