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Osaka defends the US Open crown with Barty leading his main rivals

FILE – Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates a point against Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic during her Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s individual second round tennis match at Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 26, 2021 (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP).

Defending champion Naomi Osaka seeks her third US Open title in four attempts as the final Grand Slam of the year begins on Monday with top-ranked Wimbledon winner Ashleigh Barty leading a host of rivals.

What is uncertain is whether New York will see Osaka rediscover the dominant form that saw her win the last two Grand Slam events she played to the end.

The 23-year-old Japanese star lit the flame in the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo Games, but has only played two games since Japan before the Open.

“I know I have not played so many games. I know I haven’t even reached the quarterfinals, ”Osaka said.

“In fact, I feel pretty happy with how I’m playing… I feel pretty confident where I am right now. Of course I am not stating that I will do great here. I am one party person at a time.

“Hopefully, it will work out in the end.”

Osaka withdrew from the French Open after being fined for not speaking to reporters after her first match, saying it was damaging her mental health. He then skipped Wimbledon but spoke to the media after games at his US Open set-up in Cincinnati.

“I felt like it was something I had to do for myself,” Osaka said. “I am proud of what I did and I think it was something that had to be done.”

Osaka captured the US Open title last year by defeating Victoria Azarenka in the final, becoming the first woman since 1994 to come back from a set against to win the US Open final.

At this year’s Australian Open, Osaka saved match points against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round and defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the semi-finals before defeating Jen Brady in the final.

Osaka, in third place, won her first four Grand Slam finals, trailing only Roger Federer’s seven-six and Monica Seles streak for the best Slam final start in the Open Era (since 1968).

She will open this year in New York against Czech Marie Bouzkova. Osaka could face Coco Gauff in the fourth round, fifth-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals, and second-seeded Belarus Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals.

Barty, in her 83rd consecutive week at the top of the world rankings, has won at Wimbledon and Cincinnati, putting her in top shape as she enters the Flushing Meadows fortnight.

The 25-year-old Australian’s titles in 2021 also include Miami, Melbourne and Stuttgart and brought her career total to 13.

“I feel comfortable and ready,” Barty said. “I feel good, I feel ready. It has certainly been a great year and we still have a bit to go. “

Barty won her first major title at the 2019 French Open and her second trophy in London put her halfway to a lifetime Grand Slam.

“I hadn’t even thought about it,” Barty said. “It took me 25 years to get the first two, so let’s hope it doesn’t take another 25 to get the next two. We’ll leave it that way. “

Serena outcast

Williams, who has not played a competitive hard court match since losing to Osaka in February, will not play in New York because of a torn right hamstring he sustained in a first-round match at Wimbledon.

“After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to fully heal from a torn hamstring,” Williams said Wednesday on Instagram. .

Williams, who will turn 40 next month, remains at a distance from Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

An impressive collection of 20-odd top 10 rivals in the world will be targeted for the trophy.

The group includes Czech Barbora Krejcikova, French Open champion; second-placed Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabalenka; Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic; Sofia Kenin, winner of the Australian Open 2020; Bianca Andreescu from Canada, the 2019 US Open winner who skipped last year’s event; 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek from Poland and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Svitolina.

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