nsucurrent.com April 26, 2018

Triumphant Osaka draws Serena Williams in first round…

21 March 2018, 07:59 | Nina Perez

American Venus Williams

VenusWilliams- Cropped

Japan's Naomi Osaka claimed her first career title with a commanding 6-3, 6-2 victory over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a battle of 20-year-olds at the BNP Paribas Open Sunday.

Osaka's win on Sunday capped a run that included victories over two-time victor Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Karolina Pliskova and top-ranked Simona Halep during the two-week tournament. She left ranked No. 22 and with a $1.3 million check, almost double her career earnings.

Meanwhile it was a dream run for Daria Kasatkina, who ousted three grand slam champions in her previous rounds- Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams and Sloan Stephens. Kasatkina will rise eight spots to No. 11.

"I think we were both nervous at the beginning, because the biggest finals so far, " Kasatkina said. Apologies if this is a very dated reference, but the cadence and rhythm of Osaka's voice makes her sound like Alyson Hannigan's character Michelle in the American Pie films. "She's hitting her forehand, backhand, so she's really tough". Osaka dispatched her good friend Kasatkina in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.

"In one moment you just catch yourself, like, you're in night session, all crowd, you're playing against a legend, and you are in the third set", Kasatkina said.

Osaka and Kasatkina shared a private jet - their first such ride - to South Florida, where they will play in the Miami Open this week.

Kasatkina said: "She was much better today than me, so she really deserved to win". My coach Philippe, my brother Alex, my fitness coach isn't here but still I love him so much.

The two 20-year-old's began their Indian Wells breakthrough with a fun lesson. "But during the match she was able to manage her nerves and stuff, and I was still a little bit tight".

A cleverly-angled crosscourt forehand from Osaka saw her gain two break points in the next game and the Japanese broke on her second opportunity to draw level.

Osaka started the more aggressive of the two at the start of the second set - broken at the start of the second set.

Both players are 20-years-old. It seems unlikely: the only sign of her nerves and lack of experience surfaced as she lifted the heavy BNP Paribas Open trophy.

Osaka has also now proved that she has the temperament and calmness under pressure to deliver on the biggest stages, against the biggest opponents.

"Um, hello ... I'm Naom ... oh never mind". "That was pretty embarrassing".

Del Potro recovered to deuce with a forehand victor. Del Potro trails in their series 18-7. It was his first win against Federer since last year's U.S. Open quarters.

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