It would have been a rematch of the 2018 US Open women's singles final if Serena Williams had advanced past Victoria Azarenka in their semi-final on Thursday at Flushing Meadows. However, the American did not get a chance to get back at Naomi Osaka after she was beaten in three sets, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
It may be remembered that Williams lost a controversial final against Osaka in the 2018 US Open final. The 23-time Grand Slam champion threw temper tantrums against the chair umpire after she was given a warning for receiving coaching during the match. As such, her behaviour completely overshadowed Osaka's moment of glory. It also didn't help that US Open officials openly stated that the outcome was not what they had hoped for.
Williams later apologised to Osaka and to the public for her behaviour. It would have been a great way to redeem herself if she got the opportunity to face Osaka in the final once more. However, her Belarusian opponent had other ideas. Azarenka made a strong comeback after losing the first set with a miserable 1-6 scoreline.
The two-time Australian Open champion didn't give up after being hammered in the first set. She showed off the same great form that she had been enjoying in recent weeks, after having won the Western and Southern Open at the same venue two weeks ago.
When Williams showed weakness after missing a chance to go 2-0 up in the second set, Azarenka took the momentum and quickly gained control. She won the second set 6-3 to force a decider. Williams lost the momentum and was also hampered by an issue with her foot, which needed treatment at the start of the third set.
Azarenka broke Williams immediately after that and it became clear that she was on the driver's seat. Match point was anticlimactic ace that the American challenged. Hawk Eye technology then confirmed Azarenka's date with Osaka.
For her part, Osaka advanced to the final after defeating Jennifer Brady in the other semi-final. Last year's champion, Bianca Andreescu, did not join the tournament this year after citing health and safety concerns. Osaka will now have the opportunity to win back the title on Saturday.