By Ros Satar at the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen
- Naomi Osaka  def. Petra Kvitova  7-6(1), 4-6, 6-4
- Osaka looking for redemption after disastrous debut last year
- Kvitova an old hand with the round robin format
SHENZHEN, CHINA – And we’re off and running as the last tournament of the season starts with an AO rematch was Naomi Osaka downs Petra Kvitova.
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Naomi Osaka  def. Petra Kvitova  7-6(1), 4-6, 6-4
In a match very reminiscent of their Australian Open final at the start of the season, Naomi Osaka once more overcame a second set wobble to edge Petra Kvitova out in three sets. It certainly required a shift from the starting script as it was Kvitova who got off to the fastest start, breaking Osaka in the opening game and holding on to the advantage until a loose game evened up the set at 4-4.
With Osaka hitting the front for the first time in the match, it felt as though she was settling in with a resounding tie-break. The second set saw a flurry of breaks with Kvitova fighting tooth and nail to come back at Osaka, breaking the No. 3 seed to level the set.
Osaka was the first to make a move in the decider, and it looked done an dusted as she opened up a double break cushion. Kvitova mounted one last charge, saving two match points to break, but could not hold off Osaka’s third chance to get her first win at a WTA Finals.
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Osaka: “Just trying to redeem myself”
Coming in with a 10-match winning streak, this performance was as far removed from last year’s performance where the whole thing, including even the format seemed to be overwhelming.
Add to that the pressure of almost virtually replaying the Australian Open final, and it was not surprising that at some stages, Osaka gave in to frustration, especially as Kvitova worked her way back into the match.
She explained: “There were moments where I was thinking about that. Like when she aces me, I’m just thinking, ‘You know what, it’s okay because that’s one of her biggest weapons’ and something I should expect, and I shouldn’t get angry at that.
“I still did a little bit somehow. But, yeah, if that’s the only match I played her, so that’s the memories that I get.”
Having stayed in Asia for the past two months, there felt more of a level of consistency this time, and given its rematch status, the level was high.
Osaka continued: “I just feel like it’s sort of the last push type of thing. Also I didn’t play well in the Finals last year, so I’m kind of just trying to redeem myself a little bit in that sense.
“Also, I know that somehow this year was better than last year. No matter what happens, I just have to play well and be proud of myself. But I’m here to win, and that’s sort of my goal.”
Kvitova: “It’s not the end, I’m still here to fight”
For all her joking about being the old-lady of the tournament, experience counts for a lot. Not only aware that a loss in the opening round does not necessarily mean it is all over, but also that games count for a lot.
She said, after the match: “I’m taking it pretty easy. I think winning the second set helped me a lot as well in the round-robin format. I mean, I’ve been in the semi-final and final when I lost some matches, so it’s not the end. I’m still here to fight.”
The second round-robin matches usually pitches the winners and losers from the first round together, meaning Osaka will most likely face Ashleigh Barty, with Kvitova facing Belina Bencic, with their matches to be played on Tuesday.
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