NOTTINGHAM, UK -- No.3 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan moved swifty into the Nature Valley Open semifinals on Friday, ousting No.5 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and 17 minutes.
Osaka was pristine on serve, and never faced a break point during the encounter. The Japanese star, whose BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells has helped to propel her into the Top 20, won 79 percent of points on her first serve in the match, and fired six aces en route to victory.
"I think I managed to do the things I set out to do," Osaka told the media, after the match. "I still have a lot of things I feel like I should work on [on grass], but for sure my serve is one of my biggest things [that works], and I think grass is really suitable for it."
Third-seeded Osaka will now take on top seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the final four in Nottingham. Barty dispatched British wild card Katie Boulter in straight sets earlier on Friday to set up the intriguing encounter.
"I’m really looking forward to it," said Osaka, when asked about the upcoming match against Barty. "I think whenever I practice or play with her, it’s always really fun, and she has quite a different game from everyone else. It’s really fun trying to figure out what she’s going to do next."
The first four games of the match were protracted, as both Top 30 players were feeling out each other’s games in their first-ever meeting. Buzarnescu faced a break point against her in each of her first two service games, but calmly held through to 2-2.
After a tough hold for 3-2, Osaka found the rhythm on her powerful, well-placed serves, and won eight of the next nine points on her delivery to reach a 5-4 lead and force Buzarnescu to serve to extend the opening frame.
Buzarnescu had also won eight of the last nine points on her serve up to that point, but faced with the pressure of staying in the set, the Romanian faltered. She opened the game with a double fault and quickly fell to 15-40, giving Osaka two set points. The Japanese player pushed a backhand wide on the first, but a long forehand miscue by Buzarnescu handed Osaka the one-set lead.
It was one-way traffic in the second set once Osaka broke Buzarnescu for 3-1, after the Romanian let a backhand unforced error fly long to hand the No.3 seed the critical game. Osaka then got into Buzarnescu's following service game with a forehand passing shot for a winner, and eventually took the 5-1 lead when Buzarnescu double faulted while facing break point.
Serving for the match, Osaka encountered little resistance while advancing to triple match point. On the first, Osaka put a forehand error into the net, but the Japanese star converted her second opportunity when she blasted a backhand winner past Buzarnescu to ease into the semifinals.
"Of course I feel that everyone who plays this tournament wants to get to the finals, and they want to win the tournament," Osaka stated. "Of course that’s the ultimate goal. But for me, I’m just trying to work on a couple things, and just get my mentality right. I think it’s working out really good."