Osaka faces US Open fitness fight

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In this file photo taken on January 24, 2020 Japan’s Naomi Osaka gets ready to face Coco Gauff of the US in their women’s singles match on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.*David Gray, AFP.

Japan’s Naomi Osaka withdrew from the Western & Southern Open WTA final due to a left hamstring injury on Saturday, just two days before the start of the US Open.

The world number 10’s withdrawal means Victoria Azarenka takes the title by walkover in a tuneup event played inside the same Covid-19 quarantine bubble as the US Open.

“I’m sorry to have to withdraw with an injury,” said Osaka. “I pulled my left hamstring yesterday in the second set tiebreak and it has not recovered overnight as I had hoped.”

Osaka, a US Open fourth seed, is set to play today in a first-round match against compatriot Misaki Doi, but was uncertain if it was realistic to expect a recovery in time to play.

“I never know with that,” Osaka said. “But I just hope I’m giving myself the opportunity and the chance to have enough time.”

Azarenka, collecting her first title since returning to the tour after becoming a mother, wished Osaka well in her recovery bid.

“I wish you a very speedy recovery,” Azarenka said. “I hope you do that miracle recovery.”

Osaka, 22, had defeated Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the semi-final to set up the championship match against two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka, from Belarus.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray says his true self will be on show at a Grand Slam for the first time in three years this week at the US Open after battling back from a career-threatening hip injury.

“It has been a long journey to get back to this point,” the 33-year-old told reporters.

Murray had career-saving hip surgery in 2019, his second hip operation, before suffering another setback with a pelvic injury at the Davis Cup last November.

He has dropped to 134th in the world rankings and was handed a wild card for the US Open after narrowly missing out on direct entry.

Murray, the 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon champion, plays Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round tomorrow.*AFP

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