Naomi Osaka is back in a tour final for the first time since her 2021 Australian Open title run. This afternoon in Miami, the former No. 1 came from a set down to defeat her nemesis Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Osaka had lost to the Swiss in three of four career meetings, but was able to push a third after dropping the opener. She then saved break points early in the final set only to break through moments later for the lead.
Osaka, as she has done all event, served huge finishing with 18 aces matching her best in a loss to Sofia Kenin at 2020 Brisbane.
“In the second set I just told myself, ‘Listen, if she beats you, someone is going to have to carry you off the court in a stretcher, because you’re going to fight for everything,'” Osaka said. “I think I just got opportunities and I was able to see them as opportunities. So I was able to push myself through it.
“I’m honestly glad that this was such a tough match, because I feel like you need that learning experience, and I learned a lot from today.
“I was thinking I have been in this position with her before, because I have played her multiple times,” said Osaka. “But I felt like all those times I have kind of been panicked. I was just telling myself, ‘This is a really good chance to show yourself how much you have matured … Just try not to repeat the mistakes that you have made before.”
At No. 77, Osaka is the lowest ranked Miami finalist — 2005 champion Kim Clijsters is the only women to reach the final outside of the Top 20!
In her 11th final, Osaka will seek her eighth title against the streaking Iga Swiatek. The soon-to-be No. 1 won her 16th straight match besting Jessica Pegula 6-2, 7-5 just before midnight.
Swiatek served for the match in the second but needed a second look to seal it to reach her third final of 2022.
Osaka and Swiatek will have a day off Friday before returning Saturday afternoon for the final. Osaka won their only meeting at 2019 Canada, but Swiatek has won her last five finals and all in very easy fashion.
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Good for Naomi, despite her issues I wish her the best and am glad she is playing better and holding it together emotionally.
April 1st, 2022 at 9:13 am