|Serena Williams (USA)  vs. Naomi Osaka (JPN) |
This is my prediction post for the 2018 US Open women's final. Last year I incorrectly predicted that Madison Keys would beat Sloane Stephens in the 2017 US Open final. This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals, 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals, 1 of 2 men's semifinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals. I will also predict the winner of the 2018 US Open men's final between Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic.
WOMEN'S SEMIFINALS REVIEW
Serena Williams (USA)  d. Anastasja Sevastova (LAT)  6-3 6-0. I thought that this match would be a bit tougher than it turned out to be, thanks to the willingness of Serena to go to the net to finish points quickly. Sevastova has aspects of her game similar to Roberta Vinci who provided Serena one of her most devastating losses here in New York in 2015 when she was attempting the calendar Grand Slam. Because Serena's game is so powerful, people often have difficulty coming up with an effective game plan against her, but moving the ball around and mixing up pace is usually a better idea than trying to outhit her. She can get frustrated and impatient if she makes too many errors and then starts to press and make more errors. Sevastova attempted this strategy, but Serena remained calm and cool as she overwhelmed the Latvian with powerful strokes hit deep into the corners of the court.
Naomi Osaka (JPN)  d. Madison Keys (USA)  6-2 6-4. This was a very impressive performance by the 20-year-old Japanese player. Keys is one of the most powerful players (on both tours). I was also impressed with the gains she has made in her movement and defensive abilities. But she still goes for broke way too often, leading to errors at inopportune times. However, it's not clear that Keys could have done much to avoid this result due to the level of play of her opponent. Osaka faced 13 breakpoints and saved all 13, oftentimes with aces (even on the second serve!) or unreturnable serves. Meanwhile, she earned 4 breakpoints on Keys' serve and converted 75% of them. Both players served well, but, surprisingly, it was the younger player who played the bigger points better. She totally deserved to win this semifinal and reach her first major final, where she will play her idol.
WOMEN'S FINALS PREVIEW
Serena is appearing in her 31st major final (23-7) while Naomi is in her very first. In fact, Serena appeared in (and won) her very first major final in 1999 in New York, exactly 19 years ago, when her opponent was not yet 2 years old. As I have mentioned very many times before, very few players win their very first major final (especially if they are playing against someone who has already played in one previously). As usual, both players have huge achievements at stake on the result of this match. If Serena wins she will finally match Margaret Court's grand slam total of 24 major titles (amazingly, exactly 45 years to the day Court won her last major) and will become just the 4th woman to win a major title after becoming a mother (Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters). If Osaka wins she will become the first Japanese player to win a major title (she's already the first Japanese woman to reach a major final) just four years after Kei Nishikori reached the US Open final. Their games are very similar, because Osaka has modeled hers after her idol and she has the physical gifts to do so. The problem is that Serena is the original, and even though she is almost 18 years older, she basically does everything better than Naomi. The only advantage Naomi has is her age, but that is a double-edged sword that can count for and against her. MadProfessah's pick: Serena.