OSAKA, Japan - Top seed Naomi Osaka scored a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 9 seed Elise Mertens in the semifinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Saturday, her second victory of the day, to reach her second final of the season.
The Japanese No. 1 thrilled the home crowd with a second straight-set victory of the day to reach her third final on home soil, having previously finished runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki and Karolina Pliskova when the event was held in Tokyo in 2016 and 2018.
"I wasn't that tired. I think I had a pretty good fitness level going into this tournament, so that really helped me," Osaka assessed after the semifinals.
"The two matches I played, they were so different from each other. Against Yulia, there were more long rallies and against Mertens, it was more serve-reliant."
In the pair's first match in two years, won by Mertens at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open in 2017, the first nine games went with serve, largely with ease.
Mertens saved three break points, holding from 0-40, in the set's second game, which were the lone break chances for either player in the opener until Osaka sealed the set with a break, and converted her first set point.
There was little to separate the two players in the opening set, but Osaka's serve was largely firing from the start. The World No. 4 served four aces in the first set, landing 67 percent of her first serves, and won 83 percent of those points.
"Being concious of my first serve is something I've been trying to do," Osaka said. "I was forced to be hitting good serves against Mertens because she tried to attack any weak serves that I had."
The World No. 4 rounded into form in the second set, and after the pair traded early breaks, won the last four games of the match to sprint to victory in just over an hour and reach her first final since winning the Australian Open.
In the final, Osaka will face another former Toray finalist in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also won two matches on the day to reach her first final of the year.
The 2017 runner-up, Pavlyuchenkova beat Osaka in their lone previous meeting, in the quarterfinals of the Hong Kong Tennis Open in 2017.
"For me, hopefully, the third time [in the final] is the charm, but I can't really think about that," Osaka said. "I just need to think about doing the things I need to do in order to win, and not just winning outright."