Tennis

Home comforts help Naomi Osaka end eight-month dry spell

Japan's Naomi Osaka ended an eight-month title drought by winning the Pan Pacific Open in her home city yesterday, her first trophy since her second consecutive Grand Slam triumph at the Australian Open in January.

The former world No. 1 overwhelmed Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour to make it third time lucky in finals at the tournament after finishing runner-up last year and in 2016.

The US-based star, winner of last year's US Open, was born in Osaka and it was clearly a happy homecoming for the 21-year-old who beamed and smiled her way through a dominant week on court.

She became the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific title since Kimiko Date in 1995.

"I have played finals here. This is my third time. So I am really glad that I was able to win, and for it to be in the city where I was born makes it really special," Osaka said.

"My serves have been really good the last two matches and that definitely helped me out especially today since she (Pavlyuchenkova) is such a great returner," said the big-hitting world No. 4 who stormed through the tournament without dropping a set.

Pavlyuchenkova, 28, had no answer to Osaka's powerful and precise serving as the Japanese won a perfect 100 per cent of points when her first serve was successful and battered down four aces.

Osaka raced into a 3-0 lead early on and was rarely troubled thereafter as the Russian world No. 41 was outclassed, unable to force a break-point while the home crowd favourite broke Pavlyuchenkova twice in the first set and once in the second set with an array of powerful groundstrokes from both wings.

The victory avenged Osaka's defeat by Pavlyuchenkova in their only prior encounter, when the Russian beat the top seed in straight sets en route to the 2017 Hong Kong Open title. - AFP

Tennis