The final of the 2018 WTA Indian Wells Mandatory event will feature two 20-year-olds as two of the most promising youngsters make their breakthrough into the top levels of the professional sport.
In their respective semi -finals Naomi Osaka from Japan, world ranked 44, dumped out the world No.1 Simona Halep while Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, ranked 19, outplayed Serena Williams leaving the two players most pundits expected to grace the final, dumbfounded.
Both of them deserve to be in the final. Simona Halep
The most dramatic of the two semis was the Osaka victory which was completed in just 63-minutes as she outhit the Romanian, breaking her five times in the seven opportunities she forced, to secure a comfortable 6-3 6-0 victory.
Halep had her chances but was unable to convert six of the seven break points she did engender as Osaka reeled off nine consecutive games to dominate the world No.1 and secure a place in the title match in a most dominant manner.
“It wasn’t easy,” Osaka said during her courtside interview. “I was really stressed out the entire time but I am really happy I could end it fast.”
Halep offered few excuses for her surprising lacklustre display but felt that the long wait to get on court had not helped her cause.
“I just didn’t feel the ball at all. I was out of the game today. I played okay until 4-3 but then I just went out. I don’t know why. I just lost my concentration,” she said.
“She was better. She was more prepared and she was ready to play and ready to win the match. I was not.”
While Osaka barely worked up a sweat, the higher ranked 20-year-old Kasatkina, was made to work a bit harder to topple her third top-ten player in a row 4-6 6-4 7-5 and solidify her growing giant-killing reputation.
Serving for the match, Kasatkina clinched her victory on her second match point having raced out to a 40-0 lead. The 37-year-old Venus Williams, who by now was showing signs of tiredness, responded with a cross-court forehand winner on the first match point but then wearily dumped a backhand into the net to end the two-hour, 50-minute marathon.
Ultimately the young Russian proved to be too strong for the veteran American seven-time grand slam title holder, who hit the pain barrier in the middle of the third set when she was left breathing heavily at the change-over after holding serve to take a 5-4 lead. As it turned out on the resumption of the match, she had run out of steam as Kasatkina, pocketed the next three games to progress past her more experienced opponent!
There was obvious disappointment as far as Williams was concerned as she commented following her defeat: “I pretty much come to win tournaments, so if I don’t win, I’m not happy. I’m not here for results and all that stuff. You don’t get used to losses, ever. Anyone who gets used to losses should give up on life. I really just make too many errors. That’s pretty much all – I mean, I have to stop making that many errors against her.”.
For the record, Kasatkina fired just one ace, hit five double faults and broke Williams’s serve seven times while Williams hit more winners, 45-30, and broke Kasatkina six times but she also delivered five double faults – some at crucial moments in what was an entertaining match.
“(After a) match like this, you’re just speechless,” Kasatkina said. “Too many emotions and you cannot, like, explain everything.”
She then added: “Sometimes I was even smiling on the court. Yeah, like, in one moment you just catch yourself, like, you’re in night session, all crowd, you’re playing against a legend, and you are in the third set, for example. And you’re just staying on the return, and you’re like, Come on, maybe it’s the moment of your life. Yeah, for sure you are enjoying these moments.
“The crowd were unbelievable. And to play Venus Williams on center court in the United States, in the semi-finals, one of the biggest tournaments, you just put your heart there, and that’s it.”
So the final belongs to the two 20-year-olds and as Simona Halep said in what could well be a big moment in the changing of the guard: “Both of them deserve to be in the final.”