BEIJING, China - No.4 seed Naomi Osaka is into her second consecutive final after taking down defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2 at the China Open.
Coming into the Chinese capital after lifting the trophy at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, Japan, the city of her birth, the reigning Australian Open champion secured her qualification for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen earlier this week.
She’s only dropped one set as she tore through the draw at the Premier Mandatory Beijing, and snapped Bianca Andreescu’s 17-match winning streak in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 epic in the last round to book a semifinal clash against Wozniacki.
“I haven't slept since before I played Bianca,” Osaka admitted in her post-match press conference. “I did not emotionally prepare. I just tried to sleep as much as I could.
"Before I knew it, I had to come back here, which don't get me wrong, I love it here, but it's definitely been a bit crazy time-wise.
“For me it's very interesting. It's like facing a new opponent with a new skill set, and you have to change the way you're thinking.”
The pair were evenly matched for much of the tightly-contested opening set, with the first six games all going to the server and with no break points on offer. The tension seemed to be at an all-time high as the set approached its final moments, and Osaka fought her way to her first break chances at 3-3. A game later, it was Wozniacki with a chance of her own.
But after 4-4, it was all Osaka as the Japanese player raised her intensity to grab the first break of the match for a 5-4 lead, and closed out the set with ease.
It was all Osaka in the second set, too, as she made it five games in a row when she started with an early break for a 2-0 lead. Wozniacki kept Osaka under pressure, bringing up three break points across the next two Osaka service games, but wasn’t able to convert. Instead, it was Osaka who struck again, creating a daunting double break lead at 4-1. Osaka charged to victory from there, dodging three more break points and claiming the victory in straight sets.
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Osaka was dialed in from the start against the defending champion Wozniacki, recording 30 winners and five aces during the hour and 24-minute battle. Her strong serving was the key to victory against Wozniacki, winning 76% of points behind her first serve and saving all seven break points she faced.
“Mostly when I play, it's instinct. I guess I just went down the line on the backhand earlier to get the forehand crosses… I didn't really think too much about that [she’s the defending champion],” Osaka explained. “I just thought that she's beaten me the last couple times. Like even when we practice, she's beaten me. I just didn't try to put too much pressure on myself.
“I know she's one of the best movers on tour, so I just expected a lot of long rallies.”
The win puts Osaka through to her second Premier Mandatory final of her career, where she’ll meet the reigning World No.1 Ashleigh Barty. It’ll be the pair’s fourth career meeting, with Barty owning the 2-1 edge in the pair’s head-to-head record.
“I feel like I just can't make too many unforced errors [against Barty]," she said. "For me, she's a consistent power player. She also has a lot of, like, change-up shots.
"I feel like half of what I have to do is not be too crazy on the change-up shots and also try to be the more aggressive player out there.”