This is the re-match we’ve all been waiting for. Nearly a year after their dramatic encounter in the US Open championship bout, all-time great Serena Williams and 21-year-old superstar Naomi Osaka will meet Friday night at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank.
It’s their first meeting since that Flushing Meadows final.
Theatrics aside, it promises to be a hard-hitting, high-intensity affair. Osaka, winner of two Slams in the last 12 months, and Serena, a 23-time major champion, play explosive, engaging tennis. They will take centre stage at 7pm.
Quarter-final Friday packs a mouthwatering lineup of matches, including hometown star Bianca Andreescu, who looks to continue her dream run in Toronto when she takes on No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova.
Defending champ Simona Halep will take in the favourite status against qualifier Marie Bouzkova, while 2017 winner here Elina Svitolina meets another player who has had a breakout event in Sofia Kenin, the American who took out world No.1 Ashleigh Barty earlier in the tournament.
Svitolina will be favoured against Kenin, having beaten her in three sets earlier this year at Indian Wells. But the 20-year-old has won two titles in 2019, making a third final, as well.
Canadian fans will come out in droves for Andreescu, who once again played escape artist on Thursday afternoon against No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens. It’s a first meeting between her and Pliskova, the No. 3 seed who is nicknamed the Ace Queen for her lethal serve.
Andreescu has played three matches, each of them going the distance. Thursday against Bertens she won 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-4, bouncing back from a match point squandered in the second set and proving herself too tough down the stretch.
“These last three matches were pretty crazy,” said Andreescu, who hadn’t played in over two months before this week. “But that’s how tennis goes… Being off for so long before Rogers Cup and getting to the quarter-finals, it means a lot to me.”
Andreescu said, however, that she wasn’t surprised by her run into the elite eight, and now has a 5-0 record against top 10 players this year. Pliskova is another one come Friday.
When it comes to Serena vs. Naomi, Osaka has a shocking 2-0 head-to-head lead against Williams, having beaten her in Miami last year, as well as New York. But after winning at the Australian Open earlier this year Osaka has struggled with the pressure (she rose to world No.1; currently No.2), while Serena is coming off the Wimbledon final vs. Halep.
“I’m really excited. I grew up watching her, so every time I get to play her… it’s like I’m showcasing my skills, like, ‘Look what I can do!’” she said with a smile. “I’m just grateful I get the chance to play her.”
Serena, however, would like to turn the tide against a foe who’s had her number, and said herself she’s been looking forward to playing Osaka all year.
We, too, have been looking forward to it. Pass the popcorn.