The final is all set for the 2022 Miami Open at Saturday 1pm local time and will be contested between Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka. Miami… everything is forgiven! It’s the perfect final and a much needed one in my opinion after the past two weeks in Miami and Barty’s recent retirement. Read on for my notes from Thursday’s semi-finals…
The first of the semi-finals was a fascinating prospect on paper because of the match-up. Belinda Bencic had beaten Naomi Osaka in all three of their previous tour level meetings. Osaka snapped the streak to score a hugeeee win, 4-6 6-3 6-4 in two hours and nine minutes. I think the quality was patchy in places and they didn’t play their best at the same time. Nevertheless, it was a compelling contest right up to the last ball.
The first set was a clear explanation of why Bencic is such a tricky match-up for Osaka. Bencic takes the ball so early and was able to rush and move Osaka around the court. Osaka never found her rhythm or looked comfortable in that first set. A key stat and a surprising one – Osaka won just 18% of second serve points in the first set.
This match was a classic case of Osaka’s resolve. I didn’t get any sense of panic and she stayed in the present while Bencic was crushing second serve returns. Osaka grew into the match and as she found her rhythm, became more aggressive on both her serve and groundstrokes. Osaka’s second serve was still an issue in the third set but it didn’t matter because her first serve was lethal and she was supremely clutch, finding the first serve when it counted to get out of sticky situations.
I think the turning point in the third set was Osaka serving at *1-2. She saved some break points and hit this tremendous backhand winner down-the-line having dug out a backhand on the baseline on the previous shot. Bencic had played a perfect point. Osaka rolled from there on, stumbling just a tad when serving for the match (Bencic relaxed and started swinging). Second time around serving out the match, Osaka was absolutely emphatic. And the tears rolled at the end. This was a huge win, not only beating Bencic who has been her nemesis on tour, but reaching a first final since Oz 2021. Great stuff.
In the late night semi-final, Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 16 (!) with a 6-2 7-5 win over Jessica Pegula. This was Swiatek’s toughest match of the tournament and it was a decent watch. I think Swiatek and Pegula’s games match up well and I enjoyed the rallies.
Swiatek’s forehand was on fire in the first set. She opened up the court beautifully by going into the corners, particularly the topspin forehand into Pegula’s forehand. If it didn’t create the error from Pegula, it invariably set up the next point for Swiatek to win it.
Despite the result, I think this was the best match i’ve seen Pegula play in 2022. Pegula’s persistence earned her the first break of serve in the second set and she was a point away from 5-2. Pegula saved match points when Swiatek served for the match the first time to extend the match but Swiatek won the last two games handily. I thought Swiatek showed bundles of character to reset each time in the second set. What a run this is…
Final Preview 📰
Soooooooooooooo excited. It’s the dream final. In their only previous match, Osaka beat Swiatek, 7-6(4) 6-4 in Toronto back in 2019. It started their friendship and some wonderfully wholesome interactions so I think this final is just going to be a lovely occasion. Both bring it in finals – Swiatek is 5-1 and Osaka 7-2 in tour level finals. Neither have lost a final at WTA 1000 level so something has to give!
Damn hard to pick a winner from this one. I can see Osaka is the outsider with the bookmakers and i’m naturally inclined to go for the underdog! That semi-final win over Bencic felt like a mission unlocked moment. Just really, really, really looking forward to this one 😊.