NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Naomi Osaka announced her arrival on the big stage at the US Open on Thursday (Sept 6), beating last year's runner-up Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam final.
The 20-year-old Japanese will face six-time champion Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.
Williams crushed Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-0 to sit one win away from a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title to continue her remarkable return to the top levels of the game after having a baby last year.
Osaka, who is the first Japanese woman to reach the final of a Grand Slam, had to fight harder than the score suggested to get past 14th seed Keys, who paid the price for a lack of killer instinct.
The American carved out 13 break-point opportunities, but Osaka saved all of them and was far more clinical herself, turning three of the four chances that came her way.
"This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking, 'I really want to play Serena,'" Osaka said in an on-court interview. "I love you (Serena). I love everybody."
She won her first career title at Indian Wells this year but had never beaten Keys before in three attempts and lost to the American at Flushing Meadows in 2016.
"It still feels really weird because I've never beaten Madison before," Osaka said. "She's a really good player... I thought I was visibly shaking and stuff (from nervousness)."