By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Kiki Bertens [8] def. Naomi Osaka [3] 6-3 0-0 RET
  • Osaka reflects on a rollercoaster year
SINGAPORE – There would be no fairy-tale ending for the turbulent season of Naomi Osaka after she retired one set in to her final round-robin match at the WTA Finals.

 

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Kiki Bertens [8] def. Naomi Osaka [3] 6-3 0-0 RET

Even with two opening losses, there was a brief glimmer of hope for US open champion Naomi Osaka that she could still move out of the group stages to the semi-finals of the WTA Finals.

However, she looked bothered by a hamstring injury in her long and gruelling match against Angelique Kerber, and that had followed on from a long match in a battle of the US open champions.

You wanted good things for the quiet, shy Osaka, whose composure amidst the unbelievable chaos of that US Open final saw her emerge as the real star of that troubled Slam. She ably backed it up with a run to the Tokyo final where she was afforded true hero status.

Naomi Osaka retires in the third round-robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Naomi Osaka retires in the third round-robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Even though she was struggling physically, she still made it to the Beijing semi-finals, but it seemed to come a little unstuck here in Singapore. She admitted that she had struggled to get some rhythm on a serve that is more than just a game starter for Osaka.

We saw glimpses of the potency of that serve in her final round-robin match against Kiki Bertens, whose place had wilted away in Moscow only to weave back into view with the news of Simona Halep’s withdrawal.

The early exchanges had been competitive, but as the match wore on, all was not well. In a coaching time-out, Osaka’s coach Sasha Bajin assured her it was her choice as to whether to keep going – injuries at the end of a season can eat into an off-season and 2019 should be an exciting prospect for a fit, healthy and motivated Osaka.

She called for the physio and after a lengthy time-out, a tearful Osaka had to call it a day before the set of the second set. With that, Bertens advances straight to the semi-final, and the evenings spent trying to wrap our heads around the % games won stat thankfully recede to a simple ‘winner takes it all.’

For Osaka it was a bitter sweet end to a year that saw her ascend heights which assure us that the future of the WTA was in safe slightly quirky hands.

She said: I’m very happy that I was able to play here. This is the last time it’s going to be in Singapore, so definitely it’s going to be a really good memory for me. I really hope that I could have done better, but I think this year has been very eventful, so I should just be grateful for that and I guess just try my best for next year.”

The year has been punctuated with highs and lows for Osaka, as she described.

“It’s been a crazy year, I think. Started in Australia. Did better in a Grand Slam than I have done before. And then, of course, Indian Wells and then did nothing until US Open basically (smiling).

“And then from US Open a lot has happened, so I don’t know. It feels like it went up and then it went sort of down and then in a straight line and then went up again. For me, it’s just been a lot of new experiences. I’m very grateful that, I don’t know, that I was able to have the opportunities that I had. For sure, I feel like I have matured. I hope I can say that. I’m sad I won’t be able to see you guys (smiling).

“I witnessed some stuff (smiling). That’s for sure. I don’t know. I feel like I’m more — I wouldn’t say “confident,” but I’m more, like, I have inner peace. I don’t know. Like zen. I don’t really want to use words I don’t know. But like I can go inside myself and be like peaceful, so I think maybe in the beginning of the year I was very uncertain with, like, what I was doing. But now I feel a bit more calm.”

The semi-finals will be played on Saturday, from 4pm.

 

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