Sunday, March 18, 2018

BNP champ Osaka hinted at greatness at Stanford

Unseeded Naomi Osaka beat No. 20 Daria Kasatkina
6-3, 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Naomi Osaka of Japan announced herself as a potential Grand Slam champion by routing Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-2 today in an unlikely matchup of 20-year-olds to win the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
   But Osaka's first big win came four years ago at Stanford.
   As a 16-year-old qualifier playing her first main-draw match on the WTA tour, Osaka ousted 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic.
   Osaka saved a match point in the tiebreaker and overcame a 3-5 deficit in the third set. She then fell to eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-2.
   In today's men's final, sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina saved three match points in a 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (2) victory over top-ranked Roger Federer.
   Del Potro, who almost quit tennis after undergoing four wrist operations in recent years, handed Federer, who was seeking a record-breaking sixth Indian Wells title, his first loss of the year after 17 wins.
   Del Potro also beat Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final but trails 18-7 in the head-to-head series.
   Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother. She moved to the United States at 3 and has trained at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., for the past two years.
   Unseeded at Indian Wells, Osaka defeated two-time champion Maria Sharapova, former world No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska,, former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and current No. 1 Simona Halep en route to the title.
   In the final, Osaka dismissed the 20th-seeded Kasatkina in 70 minutes to win her first title at any professional level.
  "We've seen the power," ESPN commentator Chris Evert said of the 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Osaka's game. "What we hadn't seen is the consistency and the court coverage."
   Osaka recently began working with Sascha Bajin, formerly Serena Williams' hitting partner.
   "I give Sascha a lot of credit," Evert told the New York Times. "He knew what she lacked, what she needed. Her movement is noticeably different."     
   Osaka earned $1,340,860, almost double her career earnings of $1,483,053. She will jump from No. 44 in the world to a career-high No. 22 in Monday's updated rankings. Kasatkina will rise eight spots to a career-high No. 11. 
   BNP Paribas announced that it has extended its title sponsorship of the tournament for five years. The worldwide bank will become the longest-running title sponsor in the event's 42-year history.

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