Nervous Osaka rolls past Giorgi into Tokyo final

TOKYO • The result did not reflect it but Japan's Naomi Osaka admitted that she was nervous, even as she crushed Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 in Tokyo yesterday to set up a Pan Pacific Open final today against Czech Karolina Pliskova.

The third seed needed just 71 minutes to complete her 10th straight win after her historic US Open win earlier this month.

Former world No. 1 Pliskova, who has spent more time on court than any other player at this tournament, beat Croatia's Donna Vekic 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 but took well over two hours to get the job done.

"I was pretty nervous because I really wanted to get to the final," said 2016 runner-up Osaka, who fired down nine aces.

"It's a bit surprising but I felt kind of calm going into the first-round match and a lot of people were surprised because they thought I would be very nervous.

"Today was the first match that I felt nervous. But other than that I feel like I've been playing well. I served really well and that got me out of a lot of trouble today."

Osaka made quick work of a dangerous opponent who had knocked out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, breaking twice in a one-sided first set which she took with a blistering forehand down the line.

The 20-year-old, who has climbed to seventh in the world rankings since her stunning victory over Serena Williams in New York, piled on the pressure in the second.

A brutal Osaka forehand forced a break in the fifth game, before a vicious backhand return forced Giorgi to whiff a shot beyond the baseline on match point.

Fourth seed Pliskova took just 12 minutes to secure a 4-0 lead before closing out the first set with one of her 11 aces.

Vekic hit back to take the second as Pliskova's serve imploded, the world No. 8 blotting her copybook with seven double faults, many of them coming on key points.

But Pliskova snaffled an early break in the decider and hung on to reach her first Tokyo final, a forehand rocket ending her opponent's spirited resistance.

"That was tough and I was lucky to win," admitted Pliskova, who is chasing an 11th career title.

"You don't get to play a final every week so I want to enjoy it."

Osaka will be aiming to scoop her third WTA Tour singles crown after her breakthrough at Indian Wells in March and her US Open victory.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

WTA PAN PACIFIC OPEN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 23, 2018, with the headline 'Nervous Osaka rolls past Giorgi into Tokyo final'. Print Edition | Subscribe