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Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams improved our summer

Matt Zemek



John E. Sokolowski -- USA TODAY Sports

The Rogers Cup runneth over. Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka stand at the center of many rich WTA storylines as the tour heads from Toronto to Cincinnati, with New York on the not-too-distant horizon.

While Sofia Kenin suggested that she might become 2019’s second-half breakout player, and while grass is no longer part of Naomi Osaka’s life for the next 10 months, one thing remains constant in women’s tennis: Serena Williams knows how to solve problems. 

She has made her way to the final of yet another big tournament. She figured out Osaka in Friday’s Toronto quarterfinals. Her productive Rogers Cup week — regardless of what happens in Sunday’s final against Bianca Andreescu — has made it very easy and reasonable to view her as the favorite at the U.S. Open.

No, this doesn’t mean she SHOULD be considered the favorite — I would like to look at the draw first, and I would also like to emphasize how unpredictable the WTA has become — but it DOES mean that Serena has reduced a lot of doubts. Taking down Osaka certainly changes the equation.

One can debate how MUCH it changes the landscape, but the mere notion that Serena has altered the state of play is incontestable.

Let’s not pretend that an Osaka win over Serena at the Rogers Cup would have been irrelevant to the U.S. Open or the perceptions surrounding Serena.

Women’s tennis is a very complicated place, but the idea that the Serena-Osaka match outcome was relatively meaningless relative to New York is patently absurd.

It’s not complicated at all. If Osaka had won yet again, Serena would have had to confront a simple reality: She can take care of the Strycovas and Suarez-Navarros and Mertenses of the WTA Tour, but not the Osakas, Kerbers or Haleps, the players who have beaten her in significant finals over the past 13 months.

Beating Osaka was a loud statement to critics and skeptics about the ability of Serena Jameka Williams to win a match against a top-10 opponent.

This makes the U.S. Open so much more interesting, oui?

Had Osaka won, the player who will be the World No. 1 this week (replacing Ashleigh Barty) would have had yet another win over Serena in her pocket. She would have reestablished clear-cut hardcourt supremacy and affirmed the notion that as long as she isn’t playing on clay or grass, she is the best in women’s tennis.

Serena winning on Friday halted a negative pattern for her. Osaka losing on Friday prevented observers from concluding that the Japanese star is obviously the one to beat in New York.

Our summer just got better, precisely because an already-complicated WTA Tour did not allow itself to be easily summarized heading out of Toronto and into Mason, Ohio.

The Rogers Cup gave us a drink which ought to be slowly savored, not quickly gulped down.

It’s summer. Take your time in appraising the WTA Tour. Rushed judgments won’t work on this tour at this stage in its evolution.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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