WTA Indian Wells: Naomi Osaka shocks world number one Simona Halep in straight sets

It was a dominant performance from Naomi Osaka as she breezed past Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 in their semifinal clash at the BNP Paribas Open.

Naomi Osaka
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Simona Halep

World number 44 Naomi Osaka’s outrageous run at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open continued after she totally overpowered the poor-performing world number one Simona Halep in their late-night blockbuster clash under the lights of Stadium 1. Despite the performance, it has been an encouraging run for the Romanian, whose 2018 record stands at an unbelievable 18-2 having reached the semifinals at all the tournaments she participated in.

The Japanese had previously defeated Maria Sharapova in the opening round and followed it up with wins over Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova, now grabbing her first win over a reigning top-ranked player to reach the biggest final of her career.

Osaka and Halep meet at the net after the match for a warm handshake | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Osaka and Halep meet at the net after the match for a warm handshake | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

This is just Osaka’s second career WTA final and she will now vie for her maiden career title at any level, and interestingly, she had never won a title at the ITF level as well. She will face Daria Kasatkina in an all-20-year-old clash on Sunday, with the winner walking away with the huge paycheck and the biggest title of their careers.

Osaka rattles off the first set in comfortable fashion

Starting the match in the perfect way by serving an ace on the first point, Osaka faced trouble in her opening service game as Halep produced an excellent defensive backhand down-the-line winner to earn a break point.

Simona Halep earned break point in the first game but was soon pegged back | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Simona Halep earned break point in the first game but was soon pegged back | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Nonetheless, the in-form Japanese came up with a screaming forehand winner to come back from the brink to earn the confidence-boosting service hold. Surprisingly, it was Halep who then struggled as she failed to close out points she had an advantage in, before throwing in a double-fault on break point.

However, it was a terrific rebound by Halep as the world number one displayed some of her best tennis to snatch nine straight points and all the momentum was with the Romanian. However, Osaka found her powerful first serves in time, powering her way to yet another comfortable service hold.

Naomi Osaka rebounded well and took the first set 6-3 in comfortable fashion, though the second set was more straightforward | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Naomi Osaka rebounded well and took the first set 6-3 in comfortable fashion, though the second set was more straightforward | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Facing a break point at 3-3, Osaka was in a tricky situation once again but showed extreme resilience even when her consistency was abandoning her. She earned yet another terrific hold and it proved to be a match-changing game. From 40-15 up, Halep lost her focus and completely lost the plot, getting broken which gifted Osaka with the golden opportunity to serve out the set. The underdog completed the job without a hassle, serving out the set with an ace.

Osaka whitewashes the world number one to take the win

Halep started to lose the confidence in her game, and she was rushing in between points and the Romanian grew increasingly frustrated with herself after every error. Osaka took advantage and grabbed the break in the opening game, before consolidating the lead for two-game advantage.

Naomi Osaka celebrates winning match point | Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images North America
Naomi Osaka celebrates winning match point | Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images North America

Nothing was working for the world number one, and she soon found herself trailing by a double-break as Osaka edged closer than ever towards the finishing line. Claiming 21 of the last 30 points, the world number 44 continued her fine run when she opened up a commanding 5-0 lead alongside the chance to close out the match on her serve.

Although nerves kicked in and Halep stepped up her play to spare herself from suffering the bagel defeat, Osaka was able to fend off four break points in the marathon 18-point game to grab the biggest win of her career.