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“Afraid of Her Backhand” – Naomi Osaka Reveals How She Overcame Victoria Azarenka at US Open 2020 Finals

“Afraid of Her Backhand” – Naomi Osaka Reveals How She Overcame Victoria Azarenka at US Open 2020 Finals

Naomi Osaka won her third Grand Slam title and her second US Open title as she beat Victoria Azarenka in the finals of the US Open 2020. This surged her WTA ranking to the third spot.  

Naomi Osaka
Victoria Azarenka and Naomi Osaka celebrate with the finalist and championship trophies (respectively) after their match in the women’s singles final at the 2020 U.S. Open tennis. Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

In a conversation with the WTA Insider podcast, Osaka spoke about her form since the season restart. The former World No.1 was on a three-match losing streak when the season went on a break due to the pandemic. But Osaka has changed her fortunes and remains undefeated since the season resumed.

“I was just rethinking all the matches that I lost and the most common thing that I could think of was that I wasn’t positive during any of those matches. I had so many things on my mind,” Osaka said.

Naomi Osaka on how the mid-season break has helped her

“I feel like the quarantine was good for me because I was able to meditate. I was able to think a lot about what I wanted to do. And so I feel like, in a way, it sort of forced me to think about things that I wasn’t really comfortable talking about. And I was able to come here with sort of a clear mind.”

In the US Open 2020 final, Osaka was once trailing 6-1, 2-0. Azarenka had dismantled the Japanese in the first set and got an early break in the second set. But what followed that was a great comeback from Osaka, which changed the match.

“I feel like tactically I was afraid of her backhand too much in the first set. I felt like I was just setting it up for her on the forehand side. Everyone knows Vika’s backhand is amazing. So I felt like maybe I respected it too much. In the second set, when things weren’t going my way early, I just felt like no matter what happens, maybe I should just make it physical.”

Naomi Osaka during US open 2020
Naomi Osaka in action against Victoria Azarenka in the finals of US Open 2020 Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

The tennis lockdown helped Osaka get her season back on track. She utilized the time to meditate, which might have helped her stay calm and positive in the crunch final. Osaka quickly adjusted her game to counter Azarenka’s strength. And so, Osaka was able to penetrate Azarenka’s stronghold and take the win.

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