NY Sports Day
Joe McDonald

McDonald: The Queen vs. The Upstart Is The Story of the Women’s Final

Neil Miller/NYSD

It’s the old vs. the new. The queen vs. the upstart.

That’s the story here for the Women’s finals, as Serena Williams will take on Naomi Osaka.

Serena is looking for her 24th grand slam, while Osaka is looking for her first.

Of course, this was bound to happen, as Serena has been around so long, those who grew up worshipping her and became tennis players because of her are catching up to her varsity.

Last year, on leave, we saw Sloane Stephens take the crown from Madison Keys. Now it’s the American born Osaka, playing for Japan, beating Keys today for the right to take on the queen.

“ I feel like they definitely have a lot of respect for me,” Serena said. “I have the same respect. However, these young ladies have been playing way longer consistently, so I just feel like they’re at a little bit of an advantage. But I have an advantage of I have nothing to lose.

“I’m going to go out there and do what I can.”

Sure Serena. Her modesty may be a bit of gamesmanship, but make no mistake. Osaka will have to play the match of her life to win this on Saturday.

For Serena, there’s legacy at state. No. 24, tying Margaret Court for the most slams. She desperately wants the record before retiring and with family life now becoming an issue, you wonder at 37, how much time she has left, especially if there’s going to be another little one in the future.

That’s why wins like the one for the taking on Saturday are going to be less and less. Serena isn’t getting any younger and the varsity is definitely catching up.

“(Osaka and Keys) both play really good,” she said.  I lost to Naomi last time we played, but I definitely wasn’t at my best. Again, I’m still in that climb.

“Madison, such a good player. I have a lot of respect for her, as well, so…”

Coming back from a pregnancy isn’t easy. In fact, only two women have won championships as mothers. Court and Kim Clijsters, with Aussie Kim doing it four years after giving birth. Serena is trying to do this about a year since bringing her daughter into the world.

There is an adjustment period.

“I definitely don’t feel myself yet,” Serena said. “I’m definitely not there. I don’t feel like me.

“I think it takes time. My mom said it takes, like, a full year to kind of get back. I’m at a full year now. But I’m also playing a sport professionally. The emotions and expectations and all the other stuff that you add on top of it, it’s a lot, you know.

“I just feel like I’m definitely not there. Even my body is different. Like, I actually weigh less than I did before I got pregnant, but it’s distributed differently now.”

That’s what makes this so amazing. She has to play herself back into shape, while learning what changed after giving birth. It’s certainly not easy for anyone. However, outside of a few hiccups, she made it look simple these past two weeks.

And now she has one more step.

The queen is waiting for the upstart. Will Serena keep her crown?


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