This match is a dream match in every sense. Naomi Osaka has won 3 major titles since Sept. 2018. All 3 of these majors were won on hard courts (including the 2019 Australian Open). Osaka is also on a big winning streak of 19 matches. In short, Naomi Osaka IS the alpha player on hard courts.
Yet, Serena Williams lays claim so so many records in tennis and has been the player whose best stuff was untouchable by the rest of the tour for a long period of time. Serena Williams holds 13 hard court singles major titles and 23 singles majors in total. The only contender with a higher Q-rating right now than Naomi Osaka is Serena Williams.
The current player who at her best seems untouchable (at least on hard courts) faces off against an all-time great who has all too often been untouchable on every surface.
So What Will Happen?
I think the circumstances are quite good for Serena Williams. She defended exceptionally well in her 4th round slugfest. She dictated play versus Simona Halep. Osaka’s winning streak and talent take any pressure of “How could you lose to ______________________?” out of the equation. The spotlight is bright, and Serena has been in that spotlight more than anyone. The courts are also playing faster than usual.
Each player is great because they can dictate play like a basher and defend like a counter-puncher. I think one key to this match will be can either absorb and recover from a fast start by the other. The second key will be who can reverse the momentum of enough individual points by generating offense when seemingly placed on the defensive.
I think Osaka is the favorite on paper. She is younger, has momentum, and reverses the flow of a point better than anyone on tour at the moment. Serena will need to dictate play a majority of the time to win. If Serena is largely on the defensive or in neutral rallies, the match is being played on Osaka’s terms. Serena will also need to have a few “Serena Moments” in which she wins a point that no one other than Serena (and maybe Osaka) could win.
My heart says Serena finds a way in 2 tight sets. My head says Osaka loses the first set, but eventually asserts her will on the match and wins the next two sets.
My Prediction: Naomi Osaka d. Serena Williams 3-6, 6-3. 6-2