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Azarenka wins New York title after injured Osaka pulls out of final

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Victoria Azarenka

Japan’s Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from Western & Southern Open the final due to a left hamstring injury, meaning Victoria Azarenka takes the title by walkover.
“I’m sorry to have to withdraw today with an injury,” said Osaka, who is currently on the Monday night schedule at the U.S. Open where she is due to play fellow Japanese Misaki Doi in first round.
“I pulled my left hamstring yesterday in the second set tiebreak and it has not recovered overnight as I had hoped.”
Osaka 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, in the same New York COVID-19 quarantine bubble where the US Open begins on Monday.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, of Haitian and Japanese heritage, had threatened not to play in the semi-finals to protest the police shooting of African-American Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Osaka said she was “sick to her stomach” and “exhausted” by repeated violence against blacks by US police, echoing a move by the NBA Milwaukee Bucks in boycotting a playoff game for the same reason.
Osaka’s decision prompted the WTA and ATP to postpone all semi-final matches to Friday, which inspired Osaka to change her mind and play, although she was worried other delayed players would be upset.
“This has been an emotional week and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support,” Osaka said.
World number one Novak Djokovic overcame a sore neck and an early scare to defeat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6 6-4 7-6(0) in the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open on Friday, setting up a showpiece match against Canadian Milos Raonic.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner fired off 14 aces to keep his 2020 unbeaten streak alive, extending his record to 22-0 with his latest victory at Flushing Meadows, which is temporary host to the fanless tournament amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
Djokovic, who has been struggling with a neck injury and received assistance from a tournament physio in the second set, held on to prevail in the third set as his opponent forced the match into a tiebreak.
He will next take on Raonic, who harnessed his monster serve to upset Greek world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5) 6-3 in their semi-final clash, launching 12 aces and winning 90 per cent of his first serves to earn a spot in his 22nd final.

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