Naomi Osaka kept her title defence alive in Indian Wells with an impressive 6-4 6-2 victory over rising star Danielle Collins.
The Japanese superstar, 21, was ranked 44 in the world before last year’s event. This time, she is playing with an entirely new type of pressure as the World No.1.
But Osaka does not seem bothered that she is the favourite. She is simply playing the same aggressive game that got her to the top.
The Australian Open champion started well when she broke Collins in the third game. However, the American was not discouraged. She attacked Osaka’s serve and broke straight back.
During the next four games, both players tried to hit each other off the court. Their approach generated a string of powerful winners and wild unforced errors and eventually resulted in two holds apiece that moved the score along to 4-4.
In game nine, Collins’ serve deserted her. She made two double faults and then sent down a weak second serve that Osaka swatted away for a winner.
The World No.1 unleashed another superb backhand winner to bring up break point. Then she produced an equally impressive forehand winner to clinch the break.
Osaka builds on her advantage
Osaka took full advantage of the momentum she had now established. She held easily to finish the first set and then broke Collins to love in the third game of the second set to take complete control of the match.
The Japanese player then ended any lingering resistance from the American when she battled back from 40-15 behind to break for a 4-1 lead.
To her credit, Collins saved a match point in game seven and ensured that the World No.1 would have to serve for the win. She did exactly that – thanks to an ace, two huge forehands and a crisp backhand winner.
“I really love this tournament,” Osaka said in her press conference. “I think that some people say it’s kind of slow. But for me, I feel like it’s kind of perfect for the way that I like to play.”
The Japanese player’s next assignment is a mouth-watering clash with Dubai champion Belinda Bencic, who maintained her impressive form with a comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over Caroline Wozniacki’s conqueror Ekaterina Alexandrova.
“I think the things she’s done are really amazing, and (I’m impressed by) the fact that she was able to come back from her injury and still play at a really top level,” Osaka said. “I know we both really want to win this next match.”
She continued, “I think we are both looking forward to it. Because we are the same age, I know that people are going to hype this match up. It should be fun.”
Goerges crashes out; Pliskova and Sabalenka advance
Elsewhere in Indian Wells, there was a shock exit for 15th seed Julia Goerges, who lost 7-5 1-6 6-4 to compatriot Mona Barthel.
The German is normally one of the strongest servers on the WTA tour. However, she struggled in the slow conditions on a cold day in the desert. She only won 53% of points on her serve, fired down just one ace and made six double faults.
These difficulties enabled her Barthel to break her three times in the first set and, crucially, three times in the decider to claim victory.
Other high-ranked players enjoyed much better days. Karolina Pliskova brushed aside Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3 6-2 in just 69 minutes. Aryna Sabalenka overpowered Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 7-5. And Venus Williams overcame fellow American Christina McHale 6-2 7-5.
The final match that took place in the women’s draw was cut short by illness, as 11th seed Anastasija Sevastova was forced to retire with a virus when she was trailing 5-0 to 21st seed Anett Kontaveit.
Naomi Osaka Ends Title Drought With Pan Pacific Open Win
The 21-year-old has captured her fourth WTA title in the city where she was born.
Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka has returned back to the winner’s circle after easing to the Pan Pacific Open title on Sunday with a straight sets win.
The two-time grand slam champion disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3, in just 70 minutes. Claiming her first title of any sort since winning the Australian Open in January. Osaka was dominant behind her serve throughout the final. Winning all 20 of her first service points and dropping just six points behind her second. The top seed hit 22 winners to 12 unforced errors and broke Pavlyuchenkova three times.
“It is really special for me to win here (in Osaka). This is the city where I was born. I think that gave me a lot of power to play constantly match after match.” Said the new champion.
Prior to this week, the 21-year-old hadn’t progressed beyond the quarter-final stage of a tournament since April. She managed to end that trend on Saturday after being forced to play two matches due to poor weather affecting the tournament schedule. Recording wins over Yulia Putintseva and Elise Mertens. Osaka didn’t drop a single set in the entire tournament.
“I just wanted to win this really bad,” Osaka stated during her Sunday press conference.
“I think what I learned from this tournament is just to focus every point, and just to have really positive energy,” she later added.
There is also reason to celebrate for runner-up Pavlyuchenkova, who is yet to win a WTA title in Asia. This week is the first time she has reached a WTA final in 15 months. Last doing so at the 2018 Internationaux de Strasbourg in France. Earlier in the tournament she knocked out second seed Kiki Bertens and fourth seed Angelique Kerber.
“It is not the trophy you want standing here, but it has still been an amazing week.” The Russian reflected during the trophy ceremony.
“Congratulations Naomi you were really good today and played the better tennis.”
Osaka is the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific Open since Kimiko Date back in 1995. She exits the tournament with 470 ranking points and $137,125 in prize money.
Sam Stosur Produces Comeback To Reach First WTA Final For 28 Months In Guangzhou
Sam Stosur reached her first WTA final for two and a half years with a three set win over Viktorija Golubic in Guangzhou.
Sam Stosur came from a set down to beat Viktorija Golubic 2-6 7-6(4) 6-1 to reach her first WTA final in two and a half years.
After losing the first set in comfortable fashion and surrendering her early break lead in the second set, the Australian fought back to reach the Guangzhou final.
The win means that Stosur will now compete in her first WTA final for two and a half years, when she won the Strasbourg title in 2017.
Speaking after the match the former US Open was delighted with the way she rallied back into the contest, “I just tried to hang in there and find a way to start playing a bit better,” she told the WTA website.
“She’s very tough to play against so I’m just happy to get through. This is where everyone wants to be, so to now make it to the final, I’m really happy and I’ll give it my best shot tomorrow.”
Having reached the final, she will now re-enter the world’s top 100 and compete for the 10th title of her career, which would be her first on hard courts since 2014.
Standing in Stosur’s way will be world number 20 Sofia Kenin after the American edged out Anna Blinkova 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1 in a tight contest.
Six breaks of serve was enough for Kenin as she aims to win her third title of the season having won in Hobart and Mallorca this season.
Seeds Deliver In Seoul As Rain Halts Play In Osaka
Meanwhile in the Seoul, the seeds managed to deliver to book their spots in the semi-finals. Yafan Wang, Karolina Muchova and Magda Linette all cruised into the last four in South Korea.
Although second seed Ekaterina Alexandrova had to survive a big scare against in-form Kristie Ahn with the Russian edging through 6-7(0) 6-4 6-4.
However there was a bleak day in Osaka, Japan where only one match was completed as three of the quarter-finals will have to be played tomorrow.
The one result saw Angelique Kerber reach the semi-finals having lead Madison Keys 6-4 4-6 2-1 before the American retired.
Tomorrow will be Kerber’s first WTA semi-final since reaching the final in Eastbourne in June.
Serena Williams Confident In Bid For Grand Slam History Claims Patrick Mouratoglou
Patrick Mouratoglou says that Serena Williams is confident of another grand slam victory despite recent setbacks.
Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that the American is confident in her bid for more grand slam history.
Despite the American not winning a set in her last four grand slam finals, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that she is still confident in winning another grand slam again.
Serena’s last grand slam win was at the Australian Open in 2017 before taking a break from the sport to become a mother.
Although it has been a struggle, Mouratoglou believes time is on the 37 year old’s side, “I think time is working for her,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports.
“I think she was much better at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon and Wimbledon better than Roland Garros.
“She is getting back in shape and the more in shape she will be the more dangerous she will be. I think she has started to play really good tennis.”
Losses to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have exposed Serena’s lack of confidence and how nervous she is in the grand slam finals.
However Mouratoglou believes that Serena’s historic moment will come sooner rather than later, “It is one match for history and the pressure is quite high,” he said.
“I am not in her mind but I can figure she is playing one match for history. This is the highest pressure anyone can have in life and on the other side of the court she plays girls who have zero pressure because it is their first final.
“They are going to play many [Grand Slams], they are young, they are excited, enthusiastic so they play without pressure and that makes a big difference. But at some point she will figure out how to deal with that.”
Serena’s next tournament is scheduled to be the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in late October, should she qualify although there is a good possibility that we won’t be seeing on a tennis court until next year.
Will 2020 be the year that Serena finally figures out how to deal with the pressure of creating more history for herself? Only time will tell.
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