Indian Wells - Unseeded Naomi Osaka became the first
Japanese player to win the Indian Wells final, routing Russian Daria Kasatkina
6-3, 6-2 on Sunday for her first WTA Tour title.
World number 44 Osaka rolled over Kasatkina, breaking her
serve four times and winning the battle of the 20-year-old rising stars in just
Osaka captured the title on her first match point by
blasting a backhand into the open side of the court.
The Japanese dynamo improved to 13-4 on the season two days
after her biggest previous win, dominating world number one Simona Halep in a
straight-sets semi-final victory.
She was only the fourth unseeded player to reach the Indian
Wells final, with the most recent before her being Kim Clijsters in 2005.
The loss ends a brilliant run in the California desert by
Kasatkina, who was playing in her second final in a row after a runner-up
finish in Dubai.
"She was much better today than me, so she really
deserved to win," Kasatkina said. "Of course, we were both nervous at
the beginning, because the biggest finals so far.
"But during the match, she was able to manage her
nerves and stuff, and I was still a little bit tight during the match. So it is
what it is."
Kasatkina was two points from defeat against Venus Williams
in the semi-finals but rallied for the upset triumph.
Kasatkina, who wasn't even born when Williams was competing
at Indian Wells, said she really felt the nerves getting to her on the big
stage in the final.
She called her coach to come down from the stands for advice
at one point but couldn't remember after the match what he told her.
"I mean, I already forgot what he told me. I was so
nervous, that I really forgot," she said.
Osaka blasted five aces, made three double faults and won 79
percent of her first-serve points.
Like Osaka, Kasatkina was playing in her first Indian Wells
final. This was the first time both Indian Wells finalists were under age 21
since Serena Williams beat Clijsters in 2001.
The opening set was even until Osaka blasted two aces to
take a 4-3 lead. She then broke Kasatkina to make it 5-3 and finished it off
with another strong service game.
Osaka pounced on Kasatkina from the beginning of the second
set, starting with an opening break of serve.
She also broke Kasatkina to go up 4-1 with another precision
forehand winner down the line and never looked back.
Osaka was born in Osaka, Japan, but is a dual citizen after
living in America since the age of three.
Kasatkina is 1-3 record in WTA singles finals, winning in
Charleston last year and finishing runner-up last year in Moscow and this year