Osaka Fulfills Potential, Takes Indian Wells Title
- Author: Steve Townsend Mar 21, 2018,
Mar 21, 2018, 8:01
Osaka dropped just one set in seven matches, knocking off two-time victor Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Karolina Pliskova and top-ranked Simona Halep against whom she won the last nine games of the match. Daria Kasatkina put out US Open champion Sloane Stephens and world No 2 Caroline Wozniacki, thrashed world No 10 Angelique Kerber, and outlasted seven-time major victor Venus Williams.
Osaka's title capped a run that included beating two-time victor Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Karolina Pliskova and top-ranked Simona Halep. I think we were both nervous at the beginning, because the biggest finals so far. Naomi Osaka delivered a refreshingly unscripted winner's speech at Indian Wells on Sunday that reminded us that a 20-year-old professional athlete can still sometimes be just like any other 20 year old.
Kasatkina, who wasn't even born when Williams first competed at Indian Wells, said she really felt the nerves getting to her on the big stage in the final.
The two breakout stars of the BNP Paribas Open see their reward on both the WTA rankings and the Porsche Race to Singapore this week, as both Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina vault into the Top 8 in this week's Race.
"I can not believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis", said Del Potro, who almost quit the sport after four wrist surgeries in recent years.
A crunching backhand volley on match point earned Osaka her first title and crown of "the queen of the desert" in California.
Her inability to play her usual crafty game saw Kasatkina growing increasingly frustrated with herself after every error made, and a double-break advantage for Osaka soon ensued. "I was just also just trying to pump myself up more, to get energy for me". Osaka took advantage, serving out the opening set 6-3. Osaka is also the tournament's youngest champion since Ana Ivanovic in 2008.
Kasatkina and Osaka will be sharing a private jet to Miami where they will be competing next, with the Russian joking that she hoped they would get there without fighting too much, while Osaka smiled as she wondered whether Kasatkina would talk to her on the flight. It seems unlikely: the only sign of her nerves and lack of experience surfaced as she lifted the heavy BNP Paribas Open trophy.
Osaka started the more aggressive of the two at the start of the second set - broken at the start of the second set.
Afterward, she admitted, "That was pretty embarrassing".
The 20-year-old from Japan had prepared, knowing what she was going to say and in what order.
Del Potro survived three-setters against countryman Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals.