One of the dominant storylines from the 2018 BNP Paribas Open has been performance of the teens and the up-and-comers on the WTA tour. It seems only fitting that the final will be played between first time finalists in a Premier Mandatory tournament and 20-year-olds, Daria Kasatkina and Naomi Osaka. I am so excited for this final and am resisting the temptation to write this all in capitals 😂. To celebrate the occasion, I felt compelled to write about this final and why it’s drawing me in…
Routes through the draw
Kasatkina and Osaka’s routes through the draw have been completely legit. Kasatkina has beaten four Slam champions in a row, while Osaka has beaten two top ten players in a row, including the world number one Simona Halep, in straight sets.
R2: Kasatkina d. Katerina Siniakova, 6-2 5-2 (ret.)
R3: Kasatkina d. (13) Sloane Stephens, 6-4 6-3
R4: Kasatkina d. (2) Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4 7-5
QF: Kasatkina d. (10) Angelique Kerber, 6-0 6-2
SF: Kasatkina d. (8) Venus Williams, 4-6 6-4 7-5
R1: Osaka d. Maria Sharapova, 6-4 6-4
R2: Osaka d. (31) Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-3 6-2
R3: Osaka d. Sachia Vickery, 6-3 6-3
R4: Osaka d. Maria Sakkari, 6-1 5-7 6-1
QF: Osaka d. (5) Karolina Pliskova, 6-2 6-3
SF: Osaka d. (1) Simona Halep, 6-3 6-0
In the first of the semi-finals from Indian Wells on Friday night, Daria Kasatkina beat Venus Williams, 4-6 6-4 7-5 in a captivating contest that lasted two hours and 48 minutes. I’ve gone all in and written a detailed review of the match HERE. Kasatkina has been so, so impressive through her last two tournaments and I have never seen her more confident than now.
In the second of the semi-finals, Naomi Osaka won the last nine games to score a first win over the world number one, Simona Halep in a 6-3 6-0 triumph. The match had been shaping up nicely before Osaka went on a tear. The Japanese player saved a break point at *3-3 with a cracking backhand winner down-the-line and then took her opportunity to break in the next game. This was a tough tournament for Halep and it feels like all her struggles to get to this stage, an achievement in itself, finally caught up with her as she rather went out in a blaze of unforced errors. Osaka has been playing so smart and clutch, patient in the rallies and waiting for the right ball to attack. She stayed composed and ultimately benefited from having already played quite a few late matches in Indian Wells.
I am so excited for this final for a number of reasons. Firstly, Dasha and Naomi are both awesome. They have such unique personalities and I always enjoy watching their press conferences (they are all up on the Indian Wells YouTube page HERE). The pair came together at the start of the tournament to practice tweeners! I just know they are going to hug at the end of the final and it will be so precious 😭.
The pair have never played each other before so it will be interesting to see how their games stack up. I think the clash in styles will be easy on the eye as they have completely different games. Finally, they are both going for a first Premier Mandatory title, something neither has achieved. In fact Osaka has never won a WTA title before! This tournament has already been a career-defining moment for both players. Still, I want to see who goes all the way and wins the whole caboodle.
Kasatkina has been thriving in the conditions in Indian Wells which are absolutely perfect for her game. She will likely benefit from this match being played during the heat of the day when the ball is likely to kick up more. Her top spin forehand has been lethal all week. I’m on the fence to how playing such a long and mentally draining semi-final will go for her – energy sapping, but confidence boosting.
For Osaka, the power is there yet it has been so well contained and she has been building the points with thought and clarity. I think it may be noteworthy that the one set Osaka lost was against Maria Sakkari in the fourth round. Sakkari threw Osaka off her rhythm by using her top spin forehand to get more height on the ball. Kasatkina will no doubt look to employ similar tactics and get the ball out of Osaka’s strike zone.
Being such a big final, a key factor will be who deals with the nerves and occasion best. There’s just no knowing…
In terms of who I think will win? I’m going for Kasatkina as I think the conditions and match-up (no data points so it’s just a guess!) will favour her. In terms of who I want to win? I’m rooting for Kasatkina as well but honestly, i’ll be happy either way. I’m very fond of Osaka too.
As Kasatkina and Osaka both pointed out in their press conferences, the new generation is coming. Fingers and toes crossed for a competitive final and that *both* can overcome any nerves and show off their talents.