Osaka reaches Indian Wells final


Kasatkina upsets Venus Williams to reach Indian Wells final

"I think we were both nervous at the beginning, because the biggest finals so far", Kasatkina said.

"She probably wasn't going to give me any balls so I just had to stay very consistent", Osaka said.

Although the end felt a little muted with a victor from Osaka, take nothing away from her mental attitude throughout the whole tournament.

Her victory over Kasatkina was her sixth against a top-20 player in 2018 and caps a tremendous fortnight for Osaka, who also upset Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep en route to the title.

Kasatkina, who is ranked 19th in the world, has beaten all four reigning Grand Slam winners in the past year, including US Open victor Sloane Stephens in the third round in Indian Wells.

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Williams lost to sister Venus at Indian Wells in the third match of her return after having a child and is likely to face Osaka for the first time on Wednesday, the third day's play in the women's draw in Miami. Interestingly, this was the Japanese's first singles title of any kind, and she has not triumphed on the ITF level either. "I couldn't concentrate. I was out of the game today", the Romanian said. That earned her a shot at the world #1 Simona Halep with a place in the final on the line. Little wonder, perhaps, given the size of the stage and the size of the occasion.

She also broke Kasatkina to go up 4-1 with another precision forehand victor down the line and never looked back. However, she just fell short of the mark in the finals. But, if Osaka is able to get on top of the Kasatkina slice early on it could well be decisive.

The match started as a cagey affair until it reached 3-3 in the opening set, when Halep's game unravelled as she coughed up a litany of errors, paving the way for Osaka to reel off the next nine games.

The pressure quickly showed in Kasatkina's game in the second set, too, with an immediate break courtesy of a double fault.

Osaka's gamestyle is based on her big serve and groundstrokes, which can be spectacular to watch, but also wild at the same time. And that emboldened Osaka, who pulled of a smash victor and then a big forehand to break in fifth game, and backed it up with a love hold.

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After Kasatkina's three-set thriller with Williams, 2017 Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina congratulated her compatriot.

Florida happens to be Osaka's home, so she will enjoy even greater support than the wave of goodwill she received in Indian Wells.

But that's more than she cared to consider, especially against Kerber. It seems unlikely: the only sign of her nerves and lack of experience surfaced as she lifted the heavy BNP Paribas Open trophy.

It was far from flawless, but charming nevertheless.

Asked if she was exhausted, Williams said, "She just played better at the end".

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