World No. 1 Simona Halep and former No. 1 Venus Williams were pushed to the side by Russian Daria Kasatkina and Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals to unveil the next generation of stars on Friday at Indian Wells.
The 20-year-old Osaka, representing Japan but raised primarily in the U.S., walloped the world No. 1 Halep 6-3, 6-0 for her second Top 10 victory this week.
“I’m really glad I was able to finish on my serve instead of having to break her or something like that,” Osaka said afterwards. “I just really tried to be consistent. I think [losing to Halep] in Australia I just made way too many mistakes, and I sort of handed her the match, so I just tried to be a little bit annoying and return a lot.”
After 3-3 in the first set Osaka did not lose another game.
“I was a little bit surprised, especially the start of the second set, because I feel like she gave me…free points, but I didn’t try to think too much about it,” Osaka said.
Halep had 27 unforced errors to 16 winners.
“I didn’t feel the ball at all,” said the Romanian, who famously scowled at and ignored her coach Darren Cahill on their between-game coaching visits during the week. “I couldn’t concentrate. I was out of the game today. Osaka is a strong player and she’s playing really well. I played in Melbourne against her, so I knew that she can make a good match. She was better. She was more prepared. She was ready to play and ready to win the match. I was not.”
Osaka is in a final for the first time in roughly 1-1/2 years since losing to Caroline Wozniacki in the Toray Pan Pacific Open championship.
The 20-year-old Kasatkina, the No. 20 seed, needed almost three hours to beat the elder Williams sister from a set down 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
“Match like this, you’re just speechless,” Kasatkina told the media afterwards. “Even [when] I meet my coach and my brother after the match, I was not able to say anything. I was just, like, ‘Aaaaah, okay, that was pretty nice.’ Too many emotions and you cannot explain everything.”
It was her fourth consecutive victory over Top 20 players who are also Slam champions — Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and now Williams.
Neither player was able to tally more winners that unforced errors over the three sets. In the third set Williams broke for a 2-0 lead, but could not stay out front. At 5-5 Williams’ unforced errors and two consecutive double faults were her undoing, and Kasatkina served out the match.
Osaka and Kasatkina have never faced each other on tour, but the two did practice together before the start of the tournament.
“I feel like it’s going to be really interesting, because she kind of plays a completely different game than me,” said the unseeded Osaka. “I feel like every player I have played has had the pressure on them because — like, everyone has been seeded and stuff. I’m just trying to be consistent and not worry too much on winning or losing.”
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