How It Happened: Osaka rallies past Azarenka to win US Open, 3rd major

How It Happened: Osaka rallies past Azarenka to win US Open, 3rd major

The 22-year-old trailed by a set and 2-0, but won 12 of the last 16 games to claim her second title at Flushing Meadows.

Reporting from inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, Ed McGrogan will provide commentary and analysis of the Naomi Osaka vs. Victoria Azarenka title match—refresh this page for updates throughout the final.


6:15 PM: The trophy ceremony is underway—and this is by far the most people we're seen in Arthur Ashe Stadium at one time over these past two weeks.

Azarenka, now 0-3 in US Open finals: "They say the third time's a charm, but I'll have to try again.

Osaka, now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals:

And, after being asked about the message of the seven masks she wore, to recognize seven Black victims of violence, Osaka shoots back at ESPN's Tom Rinaldi: "Well, what was the message that you got? I feel like the point is to make people start talking."


6:08 PM: With no fans in the stands but plenty of support around the world, Naomi Osaka wins the 2020 US Open, beating Victoria Azarenka, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Down a set and a 2-0, the 22-year-old won 12 of the last 16 games to emerge with her third Grand Slam title and second championship at Flushing Meadows.

Then, Osaka lied down on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court:

More to come from our team of writers.


6:05 pm: Osaka breaks right back for a 5-3 third-set lead, and is a hold away from the championship.


5:59 pm: Plot twist!

Facing two game points, Azarenka responds with two forehand winners, each catching the line and one drawing an Osaka challenge.

Then, Osaka drops the second consecutive game she probably should have won with two backhand errors.

Was that sequence pivotal, or did it merely delay the inevitable? Stay tuned; it's now Azarenka's serve at 3-4.


5:55 pm: Azarenka's gutsiest game of the match keeps her within a single break of Osaka.

Break points were saved with gusto and guts, and Vika keeps the score at 4-2 in the third. We'll see how Osaka responds after letting that chance slip.


5:44 pm: Facing triple break point, Osaka escapes—and is now two games from victory.

Osaka let down a bit after her previous break, allowing Azarenka to get to 0-40. But the Belarusian didn't do much with any of the three break-point chances, the costliest coming at 30-40. After Osaka had caught her toss on a second serve, Vika's eventual return drifted well long.

From an 0-2 second-set deficit, Osaka has now won 10 of the last 12 games. Azarenka is running out of time.


5:38 pm: Osaka holds for 2-1—and then breaks serve.

All double faults are costly, of course, but Azarenka's double at 15-30 gave Osaka a massive opening. To her credit, Vika responded with a searing down-the-line forehand winner to save the break point.

But it wasn't enough halt a disturbing trend for the two-time runner-up—who has now lost nine of the last 11 games—as Osaka breaks.

I haven't fact-checked this, but big if true:


5:31 pm: The decider opens with a pair of holds.


5:23 pm: We're headed to a third set.

From 0-2, Osaka wins six of the next seven games, breaking Azarenka three times—including the last game, which she ended with two forehand winners. (The penultimate winner was a third-shot forehand blast down the line.)

Azarenka led 40-15 and seemed on the verge of at least forcing Osaka to think about the opportunity she'd have on the changeover. Instead, it's Vika who will have plenty to ponder. Osaka wiped away five set points, and is a different player than she was an hour ago.

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):


4:56 pm: Osaka's first moment of resistance: a break for 1-2.

It's only a break if you consolidate, they love to say, so this upcoming game is crucial for Osaka.

Azarenka demolished Elise Mertens at this Open 6-1, 6-0, so Osaka is at least past that point.


4:50 pm: Azarenka's astounding serving continues with a hold to open the second set—and she follows it with another break.

It doesn't matter whether Osaka is serving or returning; she's under siege. Azarenka is moving forward every chance she can, but is also dictating from the baseline. A confidence-boosting "Come on" generally follows any won point.

Her best shot—her backhand—has been a lethal weapon so far. After a hold at 30, Azarenka breaks Osaka with a backhand down the line that Osaka can hardly reach.


4:43 pm: After just 27 minutes, Victoria Azarenka takes the first set, 6-1.


4:40 pm: Azarneka now up 5-1.

After another forehand into the net, Osaka throws her racquet on the court in disgust. She's down 40-15, but she gets the game back to deuce.

A back-and-forth rally ensues, with both players hitting uncommon slice forehands before Osaka puts another forehand into the net.

Vika has served impeccably, making 16 of 17 first serves. She's gone onto win 12 of those 16 points, though, with a mix of deep spin and flat blasts that aren't allowing Osaka to get into much of a rhythm.


4:33 pm: Azarenka takes double-break lead.

Osaka has two winners against nine unforced errors, with the last two UEs a double fault at 30-30, and a stray groundstroke to hand Azarenka a heavy advantage in the opening set.


4:30 pm: Vika continues her sterling shotmaking, and leads 3-1

Serving at 2-1, 30-15, Azarenka curls a short forehand just over the net, and just out of Osaka's reach.

At 40-15, Azarenka was even better. She blends an inside-out forehand alongside a crosscourt backhand drive—along with other tasty tennis ingredients—all finished with a down-the-line forehand winner. It was a US Open cocktail that surpassed the Honey Deuce in enjoyment.


4:23 pm: Azarenka breaks, and backs it up for a 2-0 lead.

Despite some costly errors from Osaka in the opening, the 2018 champion was mostly exceptional in the early rallies—but Azarenka was better. The 2012 and 2013 runner-up tracked everything down, while putting Osaka in positions where only a fantastic shot would do. She hit plenty of those shot, just not enough.

A comfortable hold followed.


4:15 pm: We're underway, on a brilliant late-summer day, with Osaka to serve.


NEW YORK—As my colleague Cale Hammond put it in his preview of today's US Open final, this is the match we all deserve. Osaka and Azarenka were supposed to play for a title at this very venue exactly two weeks ago, but an Osaka injury prevented that from happening. Since then, both players have only looked stronger. If you've forgotten either of their paths to this final, I recommend you watch the video above.

Both Osaka and Azarenka's US Open final histories have been intertwined with Serena Williams; today, that aspect of the spotlight is removed, but the focus is still intense. Each has an opportunity to win their third career Grand Slam title, Osaka at 22 and after single-handedly taking the sport's biggest stand against social injustice; Azarenka at 31, and after taking time away from the game to start a family.

I'm not sure which is more impressive, or if they should be compared at all. But I'm pretty sure today's match is going to be worth the wait.


The scene inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, just minuted before the women's final. (Ed McGrogan)