The US Open women's tournament has been fascinating this year. The draw has been wide open, with the big names, and some of the competition’s favourites, not making it into the second week in New York.
Number one seed Simona Halep fell in the first round and fifth seed Petra Kvitova went out in the third round. Only three of the top 16 seeds made it past the fourth round.
Unfortunately, all the quarter-finals and semi-finals were won in straight sets. The drama has waned as the pressure has increased, but that has not stopped the upsets.
The reigning champion, Sloane Stephens, was swept aside by Anastasija Sevastova in the last eight, but the Latvian lost in the last four to – yep, you guessed it – Serena Williams.
Williams, after everything she has been through, looks as dominant as ever. She’s on a quest for her seventh US Open title, and this is the ninth final she’s appeared in at her home Grand Slam. No superlative can do Serena justice. She is, quite simply, the greatest female tennis player of all-time.
Naomi Osaka, who saw off Madison Keys in the last four, faces the unenviable task of beating Serena. Osaka was a massive outsider for the title a couple of weeks ago but has taken advantage of a favourable draw.
The Japanese right-hander can be streaky. She is aggressive from the baseline, but that can obviously backfire. On a good day, anything can be a winner, on bad days, it looks like she takes too many risks.
Players like that, though, are dangerous. Osaka could just have one of those superb, sweet-hitting days and shock us all. She’s 21/10 to win the match.
Osaka, like Serena, boasts a big serve. That increases the chance of tie breakers in Saturday’s showpiece. The 12/5 price on over 0.5 tie breakers looks really good value.
Williams is 4/11 to win her 24th Grand Slam. Having dropped just one set so far in the tournament, that looks a more than solid price. We could see a repeat of the way Serena dispatched Sevastova and Karolina Pliskova.
Osaka has the talent to go toe-to-toe with the American, but so often we see people struggle to even get in the match against Serena on the big stage.
Under 19.5 games at 7/5 is the best value in the total games market. The 1/2 on under 2.5 sets shows what everyone is expecting here. It will be an achievement for Osaka to take this to a third set.
Serena has already secured her place as one of the top 10 athletes ever. It’s impossible not to be in awe of her return to the game, though. For all the praise, all the acknowledgement, it still feels like she is sometimes underappreciated.
Saturday might just be another chapter in the long book of Serena brilliance, but the sporting world should not take her for granted. Osaka was seeded 20th ahead of the tournament. The fact she is such an outsider for the final is just testament to Serena’s dominance.
Maybe, just maybe, her groundstrokes will all clip the corners and it will be her day. The 4/11 on Serena to win is the better price of the two, however.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*