Tennis

Giant-killer Osaka ousts Kasatkina for first title

Japan's Naomi Osaka claimed her first career title with a commanding 6-3, 6-2 victory over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a battle of 20-year-olds at the BNP Paribas Open yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The unseeded Haitian-Japanese player became the youngest Indian Wells champion since Ana Ivanovic was victorious a decade ago. She dropped only one set in the tournament.

Osaka ousted Maria Sharapova, fifth seed Karolina Pliskova and then world No. 1 Simona Halep in the semi-finals on her way to the title.

She won the final three games of the first set, then dominated the second, needing only 70 minutes for the win.

"If you put in a lot of hard work, you can play well," said Osaka, who was playing in only her second final after finishing runner-up in Tokyo in 2016. "If you try and believe in yourself, you can win."

After several unforced errors to open the first set, the youngster, who resides in the United States, took control of the tie.

She won five consecutive games from 3-3 in the first before Kasatkina got on the scoreboard in the second.

Up 5-2, Osaka closed out the match with a backhand winner.

"She probably wasn't going to give me any balls, so I just had to stay very consistent," Osaka said.

Using her explosive power, Osaka delivered 23 winners to Kasatkina's 10 and won 79 per cent on her first serve.

The victory will see her rise to a career-best 22nd.

But she will need to practise on her acceptance speeches.

"Hi, I'm Naomi,'" she started yesterday, quickly adding "OK, never mind."

Known for her shyness, she was definitely more at home on the court than accepting her first trophy.

"This is probably going to be like the worst acceptance speech of all-time," she said, after forgetting sponsors and supporters she wanted to thank. - REUTERS

Tennis