Naomi Osaka won her second U.S. Open and third Grand Slam overall Saturday after defeating Victoria Azarenka in three sets.
The match proved to be one of the most intense finals in recent memory, with both players refusing to give an inch and showing incredible resilience in the face of adversity.
Osaka lost the first set 6-1 and found herself down 2-0 in the second set while facing game point with Azarenka serving. Down 40-30, Osaka then scored three straight points to earn a break and cruised in the second set from there, winning 6-3.
The Japanese got up an early break in the third, but Azarenka battled and won her own break point to cut the third-set deficit to 4-3. However, Osaka then won break point in the next game and held serve from there for the win.
The match culminated the women's singles side of the first-ever U.S. Open tournament held without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic
Here's a final look at the women's bracket from the fourth round onward, as well as the prize money for the top 16 finishers.
Round of 16
No. 28 Jennifer Brady def. No. 17 Angelique Kerber: 6-1, 6-4
No. 23 Yulia Putintseva def. No. 8 Petra Martic: 6-3, 2-6, 6-4
No. 4 Naomi Osaka def. No. 14 Anett Kontaveit: 6-3, 6-4
Shelby Rogers def. No. 6 Petra Kvitova: 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6)
Tsvetana Pironkova def. Alize Cornet: 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3
No. 3 Serena Williams def. No. 15 Maria Sakkari: 6-3, 6-7 (8), 6-3
Victoria Azarenka def. No. 20 Karolina Muchova: 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
No. 16 Elise Mertens def. No. 2 Sofia Kenin: 6-3, 6-3
No. 28 Jennifer Brady def. No. 23 Yulia Putintseva: 6-3, 6-2
No. 4 Naomi Osaka def. Shelby Rogers: 6-3, 6-4
No. 3 Serena Williams def. Tsvetana Pironkova: 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Victoria Azarenka def. No. 16 Elise Mertens: 6-1, 6-0
No. 4 Naomi Osaka def. No. 28 Jennifer Brady: 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3
Victoria Azarenka def. No. 3 Serena Williams: 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
No. 4 Naomi Osaka def. Victoria Azarenka: 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
Source: U.S. Open official website
No. 4 Naomi Osaka (winner): $3,000,000
Victoria Azarenka (runner-up): $1,500,000
No. 3 Serena Williams (semifinalist): $800,000
No. 28 Jennifer Brady (semifinalist): $800,000
No. 23 Yulia Putintseva (quarterfinalist): $425,000
Tsvetana Pironkova (quarterfinalist): $425,000
No. 16 Elise Mertens (quarterfinalist): $425,000
Shelby Rogers (quarterfinalist): $425,000
Round-of-16 finishers: $250,000
Round-of-32 finishers: $163,000
Round-of-64 finishers: $100,000
Round-of-128 finishers: $61,000
Source: Associated Press (h/t ESPN)
Down But Never Out, Osaka Fights for the Win
Osaka's run to her third major title was not easy; four of her seven matches went to three sets, including a first-round matchup against a tough Misaki Doi, ranked No. 81 in the world.
Still, she never came close to defeat prior to the final, as she was always up or tied in sets and prevented her opponents from winning any break points in the third set of any match.
Osaka lost a tiebreaker to Marta Kostyuk in the second set of her third-round match before taking the final set 6-2. Jennifer Brady also gave Osaka a tough test after winning the second set 6-3 to force a match-deciding third set, but Osaka prevailed again.
Ultimately, Osaka was dominant when it counted the most, winning 24 of 34 games against her opponents in third sets.
Osaka's performance at the Western & Southern Open prior to the U.S. Open proved to be foreshadowing of her success, as she won all four of her matches, two of which were in straight sets. She reached the final, which also happened to be against Azarenka, but did not take the court because of a hamstring injury.
Osaka was healthy enough to compete in the U.S. Open, though, and earned Grand Slam No. 3 and singles title No. 6.
Azarenka's Memorable US Open Run One for the Books
Azarenka, a former World No. 1 and a two-time Australian Open champion, boasted a better resume than typical unseeded U.S. Open participants. She's made three U.S. Open finals, two Wimbledon semifinals and one French Open semi during her illustrious career.
Much of her success came in the first half of the 2010s. She took a hiatus in 2016 after becoming pregnant. Azarenka returned to the court in April 2017, but a custody battle with her son's father led to her withdrawing from more events, including the 2017 U.S. Open and 2018 Australian Open.
She returned in 2018 and finished No. 51 in the WTA ranking by year's end, but Azarenka hasn't found much success in majors since.
However, she put forth a phenomenal showing in New York, where she defeated four top-20 players in No. 3 Serena Williams, No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 16 Elise Mertens and No. 20 Karolina Muchova en route to the final.
The semifinal win against Williams was arguably her best effort.
Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles winner, looked as though she would soundly defeat Azarenka after winning the first set 6-1, but Azarenka responded with 6-3 results in the second and third sets for the victory.
Williams had lost just four of her 22 matches against Azarenka beforehand.
Azarenka's U.S. Open run may have ended in defeat, but it's still one of the more impressive individual Grand Slam tournament paths in recent memory given her comeback and the competitive gauntlet she faced before meeting Osaka in the final.