OSAKA, Japan -- Naomi Osaka of Japan clinched a prestigious trophy in her city of birth on Sunday, as the No.1 seed eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, to win the 2019 Toray Pan Pacific Open title.
"I just wanted to win this really bad," Osaka told the media in her post-match press conference.
World No.4 Osaka had twice finished as runner-up at the tournament when it was held in Tokyo, in 2016 and 2018, but the third time turned out to be the charm once the event was moved to her birthplace of Osaka, and the two-time Grand Slam champion zipped to the title without the loss of a set all week.
"I think what I learned from this tournament is just to focus every point, and just to have really positive energy," said Osaka.
The former World No.1 had not lifted a trophy since she claimed her second consecutive Grand Slam singles championship at the Australian Open in January, but on Sunday she notched her second title of 2019 by ousting World No.41 Pavlyuchenkova, the 2017 Toray Pan Pacific Open runner-up, after one hour and nine minutes of play.
Osaka’s victory also avenged a loss to Pavlyuchenkova in their only prior encounter, when the Russian beat the top seed in straight sets en route to the 2017 Hong Kong title.
The Japanese star was overwhelming in her service games throughout, not allowing Pavlyuchenkova a single break point, and winning all 20 points during the match when she put her first serve into play.
Osaka jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the clash, breaking Pavlyuchenkova with her patented powerful play. A quick hold at love to consolidate for 3-0 underscored Osaka’s determination to earn a trophy in Japan for the first time in her career.
Pavlyuchenkova used her power game to pull herself onto the scoreboard, holding in her next two service games. The Russian, however, was unable to test the top seed on serve in the opening frame, as Osaka zipped to a 5-2 lead after winning 100 percent of points when she got her first serve into play.
In the first point of that 5-2 game, Osaka ended a rally with a statement, firing a pristine lob over a net-charging Pavlyuchenkova that landed square on the baseline. Osaka eased to another service break from there, after a blistering return queued up an error-forcing groundstroke, which garnered her the one-set lead.
More big hitting from the No.1 seed led her to another early break, as the top-ranked Japanese player crushed a forehand winner to notch a 3-1 lead. Osaka continued to blast through the court from that side, firing another fierce forehand to ease to 4-1 and put herself a whisker away from getting back into the winner’s circle.
Pavlyuchenkova continued to power her way out of jams, saving three break points to hold for 4-2, and then surviving two match points to attain a hold for 5-3. Osaka, however, was unfazed by her missed chances in the previous game, and finished off the next three points with more fabulous forehands to give herself three more match points.
Osaka fired what she thought was an ace to close out the match, but a successful challenge by Pavlyuchenkova overturned that shot. Nevertheless, on the replay, Osaka converted her third match point with an error-forcing backhand, and she went on to hoist the trophy in her birthplace as she continues to work towards attaining a spot at the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen.