US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka seeks to match Kim Clijsters, Billie Jean King with third US Open title

US Open 2021: 4-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka seeks to match Kim Clijsters, Billie Jean King with third US Open title
US Open 2021: 4-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka seeks to match Kim Clijsters, Billie Jean King with third US Open title

US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka- Sweeping the year’s two Grand Slam championships held on hard courts is a surprisingly rare feat in women’s tennis. Only two players have captured the Australian Open and US Open women’s singles titles in the same year since Arthur Ashe Stadium opened in 1997: Martina Hingis, winner of the stadium’s inaugural women’s final, and Angelique Kerber five years ago.

Naomi Osaka is looking to join their exclusive company at the 2021 US Open. Winner of the US Open in 2018 and 2020, she captured the Australian Open for the second time in her career in February. The 23-year-old Osaka is seeded third at the 2021 US Open, and her journey through the bottom half of the draw could very well turn into a steady march toward her third US Open title in four years.

US Open 2021 Draws: Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev lead US Open men’s singles draw

US Open 2021 Draws: Ash Barty tops US Open women’s singles draw; Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka, Coco Gauff in bottom half

US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka seeks to match Kim Clijsters, Billie Jean King with third US Open title

The competition could become especially noteworthy for Osaka beginning in the Round of 16. There, the Japanese star could face Kerber, the No. 16 seed, or a top American — either Madison Keys or Sloane Stephens, who play each other in the first round, or Coco Gauff. Both Keys and Stephens have winning records over Osaka (3-1 and 2-0, respectively), while Osaka is 2-1 against Gauff, with their first meeting, in the third round of the 2018 US Open, ending in a memorable tearful embrace. Their most recent match took place earlier this month at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where Osaka emerged with the victory in three tight sets.

US Open 2021: In the quarterfinals, Osaka could take on Elina Svitolina, the No. 5 seed, or former world No. 1 Simona Halep, who is seeded 12th.

Awaiting Osaka in the semifinals might be No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka or Barbora Krejcikova, the No. 8 seed and the year’s breakout star with her crowns in both singles and doubles at Roland Garros.

Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty, seeking to win back-to-back titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, is the heavy favorite to reach the women’s singles final in the top half of the draw. Should Barty get sidetracked, Osaka — were she to advance through the bottom half of the draw — could face No. 4 Karolina Pliskova, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek or 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the title match.

Osaka has put together a formidable record at the US Open, winning 17 of her last 18 US Open matches, including victories in the final over Grand Slam champions Serena Williams (2018) and Victoria Azarenka (2020). A third singles title at the in New York would not only tie her with Kim Clijsters, Billie Jean King and Margaret Court Smith for fourth place on the Open era list for most singles championships — she would also be halfway toward matching the record of six titles won by Chris Evert and Williams, that much closer to equaling Steffi Graf’s total of five and within one of Martina Navratilova’s four crowns.

History, perhaps, awaits.

US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka seeks to match Kim Clijsters, Billie Jean King with third US Open title

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