Beijing | Osaka charges past Wozniacki into final
Naomi Osaka will meet World No 1 Ashleigh Barty in her first China Open final, after battling past defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets.
I just feel like my adrenaline's up more during the tougher matches so it makes it harder to sleep Naomi Osaka
The No 4 seed made it into her second consecutive final after taking down defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4 6-2, in Beijing.
Osaka admitted that she had just 2 hours’ sleep before her semi-final because she was so hyped up after defeating Bianca Andreescu in three thrilling sets on Friday night that she barely slept.
“I went to sleep at 4:00am, I woke up at 6:00am, so solid two hours, I can’t really sleep after my matches,” said Osaka.
“I just feel like my adrenaline’s up more during the tougher matches so it makes it harder to sleep.
“It’s definitely been a bit crazy time-wise,” she added, having returned to the court to face Wozniacki less than 24 hours after defeating Andreescu.
If the 2-time Grand Slam champion was exhausted, it did not show as she took 84 minutes to oust the Dane.
Osaka held off all 7 break points she faced against Wozniacki.
The World No 4 showed flashes of irritation as she let Wozniacki off the hook at 3-3 in the first set, tossing her racket to the floor.
In the 9th game, however, the pressure on the 19th-ranked Wozniacki told, and Osaka grabbed the break of service with an arrowing forehand.
Osaka, like Wozniacki a former No 1, broke her opponent at the start of the second set to underline her superiority, before racing to a thumping win.
Coming into Beijing after lifting the trophy at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, Japan, the city of her birth, the reigning Australian Open champion secured her qualification for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen earlier this week.
She has only dropped one set as she tore through the draw at the Premier Mandatory China Open, and snapped Andreescu’s 17-match winning streak in a 5-7 6-3 6-4 epic in the last round to book her semi-final clash against Wozniacki.
“I haven’t slept since before I played Bianca,” Osaka admitted in her post-match press conference. “I did not emotionally prepare. I just tried to sleep as much as I could.
“Before I knew it, I had to come back here which, don’t get me wrong, I love it here, but it’s definitely been a bit crazy time-wise.
“For me it’s very interesting. It’s like facing a new opponent with a new skill set, and you have to change the way you’re thinking.”
Osaka and Wozniacki were evenly matched for much of the tightly-contested opening set, with the first 6 games all going to the server and with no break points on offer.
The tension seemed to be at an all-time high as the set approached its final moments, and Osaka fought her way to her first break chances at 3-3.
A game later, it was Wozniacki with a chance of her own, but after 4-4, it was all Osaka as the Japanese player raised her intensity to grab the first break of the match for a 5-4 lead, and closed out the set with ease.
It was all Osaka in the second set, too, as she made it 5 games in a row when she started with an early break for a 2-0 lead.
Wozniacki kept Osaka under pressure, bringing up 3 break points across the next 2 Osaka service games, but was unable to convert.
Instead, it was Osaka who struck again, creating a daunting double break lead at 4-1.
The Japanese charged to victory from there, dodging 3 more break points and claiming the victory in straight sets.
Osaka insisted that she is the underdog against Barty, having played each other 3 times before with the 23-year-old Australian winning twice.
Barty said that she has ‘never been happier’ on and off the court after she saved a match point against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in their semi-final.
The French Open champion committed 52 unforced errors but still emerged victorious in a nail-biting 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7) triumph.
Barty, who surged to the top of the rankings in June, said there had been ‘massive growth’ in her mental fortitude when she faces crunch points.
“That’s gone hand-in-hand with adding some new people to my team, trying to work with them behind the scenes,” said Barty, who 5 years ago took a break from tennis and played cricket.
“Not just for my tennis — it’s for my life, my health and well being, as well, which has been the best thing.
“I have never been happier off the court, never been happier on the court.”
Osaka, who was dialled in from the start against the defending champion Wozniacki, recorded 30 winners and 5 aces during the hour and 24-minute battle.
Her strong serving was the key to victory against the Dane, winning 76% of points behind her first serve and saving all 7 break points she faced.
“Mostly when I play, it’s instinct. I guess I just went down the line on the backhand earlier to get the forehand crosses… I didn’t really think too much about that [she’s the defending champion],” Osaka explained.
“I just thought that she’s beaten me the last couple times. Like even when we practice, she’s beaten me. I just didn’t try to put too much pressure on myself.
“I know she’s one of the best movers on tour, so I just expected a lot of long rallies.”
The win puts Osaka through to her second Premier Mandatory final of her career.
“I feel like I just can’t make too many unforced errors [against Barty],” she said. “For me, she’s a consistent power player. She also has a lot of, like, change-up shots.
“I feel like half of what I have to do is not be too crazy on the change-up shots and also try to be the more aggressive player out there.”