TOKYO, Japan - Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova ended US Open champion Naomi Osaka's excellent adventure at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, snapping the 20-year-old's 10-match winning streak to triumph, 6-4, 6-4 and win her 11th career title.
"This arena is just amazing, and I've had a lot of fun this week," Pliskova said during the trophy ceremony. "I've been coming to Japan for the last few years, and I hope to be back next year, as well."
Pliskova came into Sunday's final having won her last four - dating back to the Brisbane International back in January of 2017 - and kept that streak alive against Osaka, edging past the No.3 seed after 63 minutes on the Main Arena.
With two of the game's biggest servers going head-to-head, it was always going to come down to who could return better, and it was Pliskova who made the most of her only two break point opportunities, converting each time to serve out each set.
"First of all my serve was very good today - I was able to hold all my service games, so that was the key," she said with satisfaction afterwards.
Osaka hadn't dropped a set since her fourth round encounter with Aryna Sabalenka in Flushing Meadows, and won her first eight points on serve before showing signs of nerves, confessing to coach Sascha Bajin that she felt like she was in the midst of a "mid-life crisis" after falling behind a set. Afterwards, she revealed to reporters that she "felt really tired today", and that she "wasn't doing the little things well".
Looking to force a decider, the youngster unexpectedly dropped serve to love and Pliskova pounced, striking two aces - bringing her final total to six - to secure the trophy in Tokyo.
In all, the 2016 US Open runner-up struck 12 winners to 13 unforced errors, with Osaka struggling more off the ground, hitting four more winners but 26 unforced errors.
Pliskova had battled through three three-setters to reach the final this week, saving two match points against Alison Riske in the quarterfinals, in contrast to Osaka's smoother passage through her half of the draw. But the 26-year-old pointed out that all bets are off when it comes to the final. "Sometimes you have your toughest match in the final," she said. "And sometimes you have to fight so hard to get there and suddenly comes the easier match. It was important for me to play two sets and not go three sets - also for recovery for the next tournament - and I needed a match like this. But the confidence is getting higher and higher with every match win; I won a lot of tough matches against tough opponents here. With every win I feel better and better."
Pliskova also felt that her tactics had been on point today. "I didn't want to try to overpower her because I think she has more power than me," she said. "So I just wanted to be patient, wait for my chances and trying to attack, to serve well, to mix the speed a bit, to play a lot to her backhand."
The No.4 seed's strong result to start the Asian swing puts her in good position to make a third straight appearance at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global; ranked No.9 on the Race to Singapore leaderboard to start the week, Pliskova will move back into the Top 8 at No.7 on Monday.