Naomi Osaka prevailed in a battle of 20-year-olds in the final of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open as she defeated fellow youngster Daria Kasatkina in the biggest match of their respective careers, winning her first-ever WTA title at the Premier Mandatory event. Interestingly, this was the Japanese’s first singles title of any kind, and she has not triumphed on the ITF level either.
This final was unexpectedly one-sided as Kasatkina failed to display her best tennis, but Osaka put up a perfect display of aggressive tennis and controlled aggression, being consistent and solid at the same time. With this historic victory, Osaka became the first person from her country to triumph in Indian Wells and her reward is a new career-high ranking of 22. Whereas, Kasatkina edges closer than ever to a top-10 debut, finding herself at the 11th spot after a terrific fortnight.
Osaka recovers from an early deficit to take the first set
With this being their first-ever meeting, Kasatkina better adapted to the day conditions and playing style of her opponent in the early stages. Probing for opportunities at the baselines, unforced errors from Osaka gifted the break to the Russian in the opening game. Unexpectedly, errors started flowing from Kasatkina’s side of the court, and the Japanese returned level at the first time of asking.
Consecutive service holds followed, though it was Osaka who faced more troubles, especially with Kasatkina earning another break point in the seventh game. However, it was a flawless display from the conqueror of world number one Simona Halep, who served a clean ace to save the break point and eventually take the tight and nervy game.
That game proved to be extremely crucial as it was match-changing, especially when Kasatkina followed it up with six unforced errors on the forehand wing. She was then broken in the following game, and completely lost the plot at the baseline. Osaka took advantage, serving out the opening set 6-3.
Osaka strolls through the one-sided second set to triumph
Kasatkina was surprisingly putting in a lackluster performance and she was slow in her movement, with Osaka exploiting that aspect with her powerful play. The Japanese grabbed the early break and never seemed to have looked back, opening a commanding 3-1 lead as she was strolling through her service games.
Her inability to play her usual crafty game saw Kasatkina growing increasingly frustrated with herself after every error made, and a double-break advantage for Osaka soon ensued. Nonetheless, despite the one-sided scoreline, Kasatkina continued to give it her all and clinical backhands saw her holding her serve to stay in the match.
However, it wasn’t meant to be as Osaka comfortably served out the match after an hour and 10-minutes, losing just three points on serve throughout the second set, concluded with a nice and warm hug at the net while the Japanese, with her humorous character, gave what she called the “worst” acceptance speech during the trophy ceremony which left the crowd in laughter.