Osaka vs. Azarenka Women’s U.S. Open Final Odds & Pick: Will First Serves Be the Difference?

Credit:

Quinn Rooney and Ryan Pierse/Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka.

Sep 12, 2020, 01:45 PM EDT
  • Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka meet in the WTA US Open Final on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
  • Osaka has no weaknesses in her game right now, but she does have a clear strength: On serve. Azarenka counters as one of the best returners in tennis.
  • Stuckey previews the women's US Open Finals, including odds and a pick for this afternoon's finals match.

After two dramatic, high-level semifinal matches that each went three sets, only two women remain at this year’s US Open: Victoria Azarenka and Naomi Osaka. Let’s take a closer look at today’s finals match.

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Victoria Azarenka vs. Naomi Osaka (-180)

4 p.m. ET on ESPN

It does almost feel right that these two made it through their respective draws to give us the Western and Southern final that we missed out on the Saturday before the start of the US Open. Naomi Osaka had to withdraw from that scheduled match with a groin injury. Fortunately for Osaka, that groin has not been an issue over the past two weeks.

That means we have two women who come into this final with double-digit win streaks here in New York. Something has to give in matchup of two former Grand Slam champions on their favorite surface.

Azarenka has only dropped three sets the entire tournament and needed only two tiebreaks across those 11 matches. The unseeded Belarusian has also had a much tougher path than Osaka, defeating four seeds along the way.

Meanwhile, Osaka has gone to three sets five times during her 10-match winning streak and has defeated only two seeds. Although, her most recent victory against an extremely in-form Jen Brady may have been the most impressive win of the tournament.

Playing Style

Naomi Osaka is the deserved favorite for a reason. When on her game, she’s the best hard-court player in the world. She features a vicious forehand that she can blast by her opponents in any direction. Osaka also has a powerful serve that can get her out of trouble when needed. She really has no weaknesses in her game.

On the other side of the net, Victoria Azarenka leans on her defense and craftiness while using her backhand to finish points. She’s also an excellent returner of serve on hard courts. Azarenka can effectively get the ball back high and deep from her forehand side, making it difficult for powerful players like Osaka and Serena to attack the second ball. And on the backhand side, she attacks the initial ball early and aggressively. Azarenka has been serving better during this tournament, but it’s a shot that historically has let her down on the biggest stages.

This match may ultimately come down to first-serve percentage. Osaka got away with a few second serves in critical moments during her previous match against Brady. However, Azarenka is much better suited to take advantage, as she did in her recent win against the greatest server in women’s tennis history.

However, Brady served flawlessly in that match at a level that Azarenka can’t really duplicate. If she’s not getting her first serve in, Osaka will pounce and Azarenka will be behind the eight-ball on those points.

Both women are capable returners and have outstanding movement on this surface, so Osaka’s superior serve could ultimately be the difference on the biggest points. She has saved 76% of break points this tournament with has only been broken five times.

Meanwhile, Azarenka has only saved 50% while being broken eight more times. If Osaka can control the points from the start with her first serve, it will be tough for Azarenka to use her angles and precision to win points on return. However, if Osaka struggle to get her first serves in and throws in a couple double-faults, she could run into trouble on serve for the first time this tournament against by far the best returner she will have faced.

Nerves?

You never know when nerves will pop up in a Grand Slam final, but we don’t have a high risk of any meltdowns today between two former Grand Slam champions. Osaka has won each of her two major final appearances in her young career, taking the trophy home in Melbourne and here in New York.

Azarenka also has two hard-court major titles, but both came at the Australian Open in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. She also advanced to two finals at the US Open but came up short in three sets both times against Serena Williams.

If anybody would be more susceptible to nerves, perhaps it’s Azarenka, who hasn’t played in a Grand Slam final in seven years. And for what it’s worth, the young guns have gotten the better of the veterans in recent major final matchups.

But with no fans and based on how each woman has looked throughout this tournament, I don’t think it’s a concern this afternoon.

Head-to-Head

These two have previously met three times with Osaka taking two of the three. However, I don’t really take much from any of those past results.

Azarenka won in blowout fashion in their only previous hard-court matchup at the 2016 Australian Open, but Osaka was just a teenager and nowhere near the caliber of player we see today.

Their other two meetings were more recent (2018 and 2019) but both came on clay, which is a surface that neither player prefers. Plus, Azarenka was still working her way back into form over the past few years.

Betting Value

Sometimes, a line just doesn’t have much value, and it’s okay to pass on a match. As it stands right now, I show a slight edge on Azarenka but not enough to pull the trigger. However, we still have plenty of time to go before this match starts, so we could see this line move.

If I could get Azarenka at +175 or better, I’d take a shot. If we never see that price, I’ll just enjoy the match while waiting to see if anything jumps out to me for a potential live bet.

Although, it’s worth noting that the winner of the first set has gone on to win the match 25 straight years at the US Open. Since 1995, only US Open finals matches have gone to three sets. Those four matches are the only ones over that span that would’ve gone over today’s over/under of 22 games — although four did hit 22 on the nose.

For what it’s worth, since 2005, only 16-of-57 (28%) WTA Grand Slam finals have gone three sets. Nerves have a lot to do with this as we’ve seen some first-time Slam finalists get routed. But again, I don’t see that happening today and make the total exactly 22 myself.

Good luck and enjoy the tennis!

[Bet Azarenka vs. Osaka now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

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