“I think because it’s a new situation,” Kerber said. “I mean, of course, you have always the goal for years to go there and to reach the top, but then if you are there, you actually don’t know what to expect, and then it’s just the process. You have to get used to everything. You have to schedule your day, plan completely different and, yeah, it’s for sure tougher to stay on top.”
It was Osaka’s first victory against a top-10 opponent in 10 tries. She looked on the verge of her first such win three weeks ago in Toronto, but was forced to retire because of an abdominal injury after taking the second set over top-ranked Karolina Pliskova.
That match, Osaka acknowledged, “really hurt my feelings.”
Although Osaka had dominated play Tuesday, the match still seemed in the balance until late, given her history on the court. Last year at Ashe Stadium, she squandered a 5-1 lead in the third set against eighth-seeded Madison Keys, a loss that seemed to leave some emotional scar tissue.
“It means a lot, especially because of the last time I was here,” Osaka said in her on-court interview. “This court hasn’t been a fond memory.”
Osaka blasted through those nerves with controlled aggression, hammering 10 forehand winners in the second set to Kerber’s three.
“I felt the same type of nerves come up at 4-1 in this match, so I wanted to tell myself just to keep playing how I was playing and not let the nerves get over me as much as last year,” Osaka said.
Taylor said the key to Osaka’s performance was her learning how to hone her power.
“She’s really matured a lot and she has a better balance of playing the right shot at the right time,” he said. “When an aggressive player has a clear understanding of when to hit the right shot, they’re very dangerous against anyone.
“I think when you see the end result, you think it just clicked, but it is a process, and it’s from losing some matches that are painful. That’s the big difference between now and this time last year.”
Taylor coached Samantha Stosur to the U.S. Open title in 2011, and said he drew on his experience coaching several different players against Kerber in forming a plan of attack.
He gave Osaka visual aids to the patterns of Kerber’s shot selection against players with styles similar to hers.
Osaka was less certain about her emotions after the victory. She admitted having some consternation about her celebration,…