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Naomi Osaka into Western and Southern Open final; Johanna Konta loses to Azarenka

Naomi Osaka into Western and Southern Open final; Johanna Konta loses to Azarenka
Osaka wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt as she walked onto court

Naomi Osaka reached the Western and Southern Open final with a straight-set victory over Elise Mertens.

Japan’s fourth seed defeated Belgium’s Mertens 6-2 7-6 (7-5) and will play Victoria Azarenka in the final.

Belarusian Azarenka fought back from a set down to beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 4-6 6-4 6-1 in their semi-final.

Osaka’s semi-final was due to take place on Thursday but tournament organisers suspended play for a day in protest against racial inequality.

It came after Osaka had pulled out of the match, saying thatexternal-link “as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand”.

The 2018 US Open champion then decided to play despite being ready to concede after a “lengthy” consultation with the WTA and USTA.

“For me it’s been a little bit stressful, I couldn’t really sleep last night so I’m really glad I was able to play at a pretty good level,” Osaka said.

“I’m really glad I didn’t mentally collapse. I was down a break in the second and I got really tight in the tie-break so really glad I didn’t just dip.”

The Western and Southern Open was one of a number of sporting events in the US to be suspended in protest at the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Konta falters after fast start

British number one Konta had started well at Flushing Meadows against two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka, breaking serve early on before narrowly missing out on doing it again to close out the set, eventually winning it on her eighth set point.

She quickly found herself a break down in the second set though, with three of the opening four games going against serve.

Azarenka eventually levelled the match with another break to take it into a decider.

From there the former world number one controlled proceedings, twice breaking Konta’s serve.

The Western and Southern Open is usually held in Cincinnati but was moved to New York to create a two-tournament safety bubble that also incorporates the US Open, which starts on Monday and is the first Grand Slam since the sport was put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

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