After a dramatic fortnight in Indian Wells, the women’s draw culminates on Sunday in an incredibly interesting final, with the unseeded Naomi Osaka taking on 20th seed Daria Kasatkina for the 2018 BNP Paribas Open title.
This will be the first meeting for the twenty-year-olds, and it will interestingly be the biggest match of both women’s careers, with neither having played in a match of this magnitude previously. A first Premier Mandatory title is up for grabs for both, with Kasatkina aiming for only her second WTA title, and Osaka hoping to capture her first ever tour title.
With both Osaka and Kasatkina widely seen as two of the most promising talents on tour, it will be interesting to see how this first meeting pans out, and who will handle the occasion better and make another significant step in their career. The winner will secure 1000 ranking points and $1,340,860 in prize money
Road to the final
It has been an incredible run for both women, with Osaka and Kasatkina each collecting some notable wins on their way to the final.
Unseeded, Osaka had to play in the first round, where she beat former world number one Maria Sharapova in straight sets. She then beat 32nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska and qualifier Sachia Vickery to reach the fourth round and there beat Maria Sakkari to reach the last eight. The Japanese secure just the third top ten win her career as she beat fifth seed Karolina Pliskova to reach the last four, where she crushed world number one Simona Halep for the loss of just three games to reach the biggest match of her career.
Kasatkina had the advantage of not playing a first-round match due to her seeded status and started well with a comfortable win over Katerina Siniakova. She then beat 13th seed and US Open champion Sloane Stephens to reach the fourth round, where she overcame second seed and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki to reach the last eight without dropping a set. The Russian then crushed former world number one Angelique Kerber for the loss of just two games to reach the semifinals, where she battled past another former number one in Venus Williams in three tight sets to continue her incredible recent run of form.
One factor in this final could be the occasion itself- who is more likely to handle it better, especially when it comes down to the key stages? It is Kasatkina who has more experience at this stage of tournaments, with this being her fourth WTA singles final compared to Osaka’s second, and the Russian has already reached a notable final this season, back in Dubai less than a month ago. However, she lost that final heavily, and whilst Osaka has been known to struggle under the pressure in the past, she has looked incredibly composed on court in 2018 and had a much shorter semifinal than her opponent on Sunday.
Osaka and Kasatkina both have exciting games to watch, and it will be interesting to see the contrast of styles between the two in their first-ever meeting. Osaka, four inches taller than her opponent, is generally the more powerful of the two, and will likely have the opportunity to dictate large passages of play if she can get her potentially dangerous serve and forehand firing. However, the Japanese can be erratic and will need to perform as she has done all tournament to give herself a strong chance of winning. Meanwhile, Kasatkina can also be erratic, but has been in very good form over her past few tournaments and has the type of game which could frustrate the Japanese. The 20th seed has fairly solid groundstrokes, but is also able to move well and is incredibly effective with slices and drop shots; if she can maintain her level from her past few matches, she could frustrate Osaka immensely.
In what could well be the first of many meetings between these two, especially in significant matches, it is hard to pick a clear favorite with both women playing well. Osaka’s power could prove too much for the Russian, but with Kasatkina having played so well not only in this tournament but in tournaments prior to here, it looks as if it might be here claiming the Indian Wells title.
Prediction: Daria Kasatkina in three sets