Daria Kasatkina vs Naomi Osaka: Indian Wells final preview and prediction

Clyde Nash
March 21, 2018

Naomi Osaka clinched the first title of her career by defeating fellow 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in the Indian Wells final on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese woman to lift the trophy in the California desert.

They soon looked more assured, but the 20th seed gifted Osaka the opportunity to serve for opening set with a poor service game, which her opponent won with a rasping backhand victor. Her world ranking is expected to climb from No. 44 to No. 22 on Monday. With her fourth-round finish at the US Open previous year, she would begin a run of wins over all four reigning Major champions-French Open victor Jelena Ostapenko, Wimbledon champ Garbine Muguruza, US victor Sloane Stephens, and Australian champion Caroline Wozniacki, plus current No1 Halep.

Unseeded Japanese Roger Federer has earned a spot in the semi-finals of the Paribas Open here after beating Hyeon Chung in straight setsOsaka overcame World No. 1 Halep 6-3, 6-0.

"I think we were both nervous at the beginning, because the biggest finals so far, " Kasatkina said.

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And, with the biggest win of her career looming, Osaka showed admirable poise to ease through the first set without facing a break point on her own serve. She's hitting her forehand, backhand.

Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina will go head to head for the Paribas Open title after stunning Simona Halep and Venus Williams respectively in the semi-finals here on Friday.

"I freaked out", she said.

Osaka is the sixth different Indian Wells champion in six years and the first to win an initial title at Indian Wells since Daniela Hantuchova in 2002.

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"She's really very powerful, serving good, doesn't have weaknesses", said Kasatkina, seeded 20th. "I was just more consistent". Osaka gained the only other break of the first set with a backhand victor on the sideline to go up 5-3. She is the first unseeded victor since Kim Clijsters in 2005 and the second-youngest since Ana Ivanovic in 2008. During the match, she was able to manage her nerves and stuff, and I was still a little bit tight. A victory in Sunday's final would move her into the top 10. "That was pretty embarrassing".

"OK, never mind, " she quickly blurted.

The 20-year-old from Japan had prepared, knowing what she was going to say and in what order.

Del Potro became the first Argentine victor in the 42-year history of the desert tournament.

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Osaka summed up the imminent final, the first-time meeting between the two young stars, perfectly: "I feel like we're a new generation that is trying to push through".

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