By Ros Satar, in Indian Wells

  • Naomi Osaka def. Simona Halep [1] 6-3 6-0
  • Faces Daria Kasatkina for the first time in their career
INDIAN WELLS, USA – The BNP Paribas will see two 20-year-olds fight it out for their biggest title to date as Naomi Osaka sets up a clash with Daria Kasatkina.

 

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Naomi Osaka def. Simona Halep [1] 6-3 6-0

Simona Halep in the semi-final of the BNP Paribas Open, WTA Indian Wells

Simona Halep in the semi-final of the BNP Paribas Open, WTA Indian Wells | (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

If the first semi-final felt like a de-facto final, the next one between Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep felt like the cold chilly breeze that swept through the stadium.

Osaka was quick to strike, breaking Halep in the first game, but the Romanian is usually an old hand in conditions like these, quickly breaking back steady the ship. The first set looked like it would be competitive now it had settled down, as Halep pulled back the deficit, but Osaka’s brand of heavy hitting started to unsettle the World No. 1.

Shots she would usually back herself on seemed to belong to someone else’s racquet as Osaka broke again before serving for the first set. Where we might often be used to seeing Halep reverse the unfavourable tide, and fight back, we saw her more than swiftly give up the first three games.

Where we would expect her to absorb the pace from Osaka and send it back with interest and a pretty bow, she had no purchase on the ball or the actions around it, and although she put up an impressive fight to have four break points to try and get on the board, Osaka converted on her third match point.

 

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‘New generation pushing through’

It was an understandably despondent Halep who came into press – she retains the World No. 1 ranking for the Miami tournament but that will be small comfort for the Romanian, who admitted she just came out flat.

“To feel the ball. I missed a lot, and I didn’t play what I had to play. I tried my best to be ready to play the match. I don’t find excuses. I just explain what it happened. I just was not ready, and I played wrong.”

It probably does not seem that long ago that Halep herself was cannoning up the rankings, and with two 20-year-olds in the final here, what did it feel like back then for Halep as she was starting to claim those big scalps?

“I think it’s easier at the beginning, because you have no pressure and you play without thinking that much, because you are in the semis, you are 20 years old. So I have been in this position and always the big matches I played well. But doesn’t mean that, you know — today she was better than me, definitely.”

For Halep there are plenty of positives to take away from the week, having not played for a whole and recovering from the foot injury. But to look ahead to the final, she had this to say:

“Osaka is a strong player and she’s playing really well. I played in Melbourne against her, so I knew that she can make a good match.

“Also Kasatkina is playing well here, helps everything for her, because she’s rolling the ball very well. She’s playing with topspin. So both of them deserve to be in the final.”

Osaka has displayed remarkable mental fortitude to get though some of the challenging matches she has played this week. Looking ahead to Sunday’s final, she said:

I feel like it’s going to be really interesting, because [Kasatkina] plays a completely different game than me, and I think we’re both in the final of this type of tournament for the first time. So it’s going to be fun, I think.

I feel like maybe I came out a little bit slower than she has, because she’s obviously seeded in this tournament and stuff. But I feel like we ended up in the same place, and we’re both going to try really hard. And, yeah, I feel like there is a new generation, and we’re trying to push through.

 

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The BNP Paribas Open women’s final will take place on Sunday.

 

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