BEIJING, China -- In a clash between the two women to most recently hold the World No.1 ranking, it was No.4 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan who emerged victorious to claim the China Open title on Sunday with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over current World No.1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
World No.4 Osaka won her 10th straight match with her one-hour and 50-minute defeat of Barty, and with that, the Japanese star claimed her second consecutive WTA singles title, having hoisted the trophy in her previous tournament in her birthplace of Osaka.
"It feels good," Osaka said, in her post-match press conference. "For me, this was my goal. After I lost in the US Open -- I pretty much don't want to say I planned -- but I really meditated on it. It just feels like I accomplished what I set out to do."
"I still felt like the underdog [against Barty]," Osaka added. "Results-wise, she's had a way better 2019, I think. She's ranked higher than me. People look at that going into it."
Osaka is now up to three titles on the season, having started 2019 by winning her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, a feat which lifted her to the World No.1 ranking for the first time in her career. Osaka increases her career total to five WTA singles titles, with her three 2019 trophies accompanying her victories at the US Open and Indian Wells last year.
Despite dropping serve once to cede the opening set to Barty, Osaka was terrific on first serve throughout the encounter, winning 80 percent of those points. The victor saved three of the four break points she faced overall, and converted three of the five break points she held in the final two sets to notch the three-set victory.
"In the first set, honestly all I could think about was how much I wanted to win," Osaka admitted. "That made me very emotional. I think that was pretty obvious. I think you can see that from the outside. In the second set, I just tried to rationalize everything. Then in the third set, just continue what I was doing in the second."
A rematch could be in the offing at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, as Osaka became the fifth player to qualify for the elite year-ending event in the midst of her China Open title run, joining Barty, as well as Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, and Bianca Andreescu.
Following two love service holds, Osaka earned the initial opportunity to crack the first set open, as she grabbed the first break point of the tilt. Barty, however, used a fierce forehand to force a wide error from Osaka and erase the break point, as she slid to a hold for 3-2.
Having fought her way out of that predicament, Barty held three break points of her own in the subsequent game after miscues by Osaka, and the Australian clinched the first service break of the match after an Osaka netted backhand. Barty nearly handed the break right back with a run of wide forehands, but she recovered with pristine aggression in the forecourt, staving off another break point to extend her lead to 5-2.
— WTA (@WTA) October 6, 2019
A stunning array of fearsome forehands and stellar serves put Osaka back on track as she blew through another love service game to reach 5-3. The two-time Grand Slam champion, though, could not pull Barty back on serve, as the Australian crushed three super serves in a row to tee up triple set point. Barty only needed one chance to finish off the set, sealing it with her second consecutive ace.
Just as in the opening frame, Osaka also grabbed the first break point of the second set, which she created with a blistering crosscourt backhand at 2-1. Once more, though, Barty fended off the Japanese player’s chance, this time with a devilish dropshot winner, and the World No.1 held on for 2-2.
This time around, though, Osaka found another opportunity, and made it work. Osaka had started to find her targets with her aggressive service returns on a more consistent basis, and she garnered a break point at 3-2 with one such return off of her backhand side. Osaka converted that chance for her first break of the match, after a long Barty forehand, to lead 4-2.
Serving for the set at 5-3, Osaka fell behind 15-30, but then used her backhand to hit her way out of the deficit, maneuvering to a set point from that wing. There, Barty fired a forehand return wide, and Osaka had leveled the match at one set apiece after exhibiting the pristine power which brought her to two hardcourt Grand Slam titles in the last two years.
— WTA (@WTA) October 6, 2019
Osaka carried her momentum into the decider, starting the set off by breaking Barty in the first game after big hitting led to an error-forcing down-the-line forehand on break point. Sterling forehands helped Barty save a break point in her next service game, and the Australian held one chance to level the set at 2-2. However, Barty missed that break point with a forehand error, and Osaka powered her way to a hold for 3-1 from there.
The Japanese player moved to victory from there, crushing serves to garner a love hold for 4-2, then earning a break at love to reach 5-2. Osaka hit a 10-point winning streak before Barty used excellent defense to reach deuce in the final game of the match, but Osaka pulled through the close game, converting her second match point to clinch the trophy.
"I just told myself if I stop being so dramatic I could honestly contest it," Osaka said. "I think that's what I did in the second and third."
"For me, I just do what I've been doing for, like, 21 years, which is play tennis," Osaka stated. "That's the main thing for me. That's the thing that I've done every day of my life and what gives me most joy."