Naomi Osaka recovered from a nightmare start to capture her second US Open title with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Victoria Azarenka at Flushing Meadows, New York on Saturday night.

In a tournament that saw Osaka shine a light on the protests against police brutality, the Japanese starlet delivered statements on her way to the court, then big performances on it as she captured her third Grand Slam title with a brilliant comeback to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

But unlike her previous two Grand Slam victories, Osaka’s latest triumph came in a virtually empty arena, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the entire tournament to be played behind closed doors.

It made the tournament a markedly different experience for Osaka and her fellow players as they battled for the title at Flushing Meadows. But, while some players struggled, Osaka shone as she won her way through to the final, then recovered from a shaky start to defeat Azarenka and capture the title.

Their meeting in the final was the second time in two tournaments that the pair had reached a final together, after they both made it to the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, the official warm-up tournament for the US Open.

Osaka pulled out of that final with a hamstring injury, but the pair eventually met in the final of the Grand Slam. And, after the match, Osaka joked that she didn’t want to face Azarenka in tournament finals again.

“I actually don’t want to play you in more finals,” a grinning Osaka told her after the match.

“I didn’t really enjoy that! That was a really tough match for me.

“And yes, really inspiring for me because I used to watch you play here when I was younger so just to have the opportunity to play you is really great and I learned a lot.”