In both of her US Open final losses, Azarenka won the second set, only to have her comeback cut short. Can she do the same to Osaka this time? It will be fascinating to watch, and—as I had predicted and hope—has been worth the wait.
5:14 pm: Osaka continues to build confidence on serve, and now leads 5-3.
5:09 pm: We have a match. Osaka now leads by a break, 4-3.
Azarenka is missing shots she was putting away with impunity in the first set, including a short backhand to the opposite corner that gives Osaka her second break in her last three return games.
Something to keep in mind, as Vika sits on this changover:
“When you're in the changeovers and your eyes are closed, what do you see when you're sitting there? What's going through your mind?” Azarenka was asked after her breakthrough semifinal win over Serena Williams.
The reply: “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That's my goal. That's my goal, is just nothing.”
5:04 pm: Azarenka stems the tide with a hold for 3-2.
Second-set stats: Osaka 6 winners, 3 unforced errors, and has made 10 of 12 first serves. Her play has unquestionably picked up. But Azarenka has still landed 16 of her 19 first serves this set.
5:00 pm: Osaka does indeed hold, and the second set is tied, 2-2.
If you're hearing more support than usual, it's because there are more people in the stadium that usual (they/we are mostly entirely hidden from television cameras):