Brisbane: Tsurenko topples ‘sulking’ Osaka for final spot

Published by Alex Sharp

World No.27 Lesia Tsurenko will target a fifth WTA title in the Brisbane International final against Donna Vekic or 2017 champion Karolina Pliskova.

A commanding performance from Lesia Tsurenko sent second seed Naomi Osaka out of the Brisbane International 6-2 6-4 to book the Ukrainian a place in Sunday’s final.

The unseeded Tsurenko, who made the Brisbane semifinals six years ago as a lucky loser, struck 20 winners and capitalised upon an off-kilter showing from the US Open champion.

Osaka had won both of their previous meetings, but the Japanese youngster committed 26 unforced errors to enable Tsurenko to surge into a maiden WTA Premier final.

Tsurenko – a quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows back in September, where Osaka thrashed her for the loss of just two games – will meet 2017 champion Karolina Pliskova – who beat Donna Vekic in straight sets – in a bid to lift a fifth career title.

“Of course, I was a little bit nervous in the beginning and at the end, but in general I’m really happy with my performance,” said the 29-year-old, who has a season goal to reach the top 10. “I don’t want to say that this was my best tennis, but it was quite a high level.

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“The key for me was to stay aggressive, to give good direction on the serve, I’m happy I managed that and it’s a really, really nice win for me.”

Pliskova, meanwhile, was thrilled with her 6-3 6-4 win over the dangerous Croat.

“I think so far (it was) my best match,” Pliskova said. “I was moving pretty well today, and of course the serve has been great all week.

“Donna’s a tough opponent, so I knew I had to improve from last night,” she said, referring to her 6-1 1-6 6-1 defeat of Australian Ajla Tomjlanovic.

A win on Sunday would see her become the third woman to win two Brisbane titles following Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.

“It’s going to be tough,” Pliskova said of the battle that awaits on Pat Rafter Arena against Tsurenko.

“She’s beaten top players here, I’m expecting a tough one.”

Osaka is determined to learn valuable lessons from such a comprehensive defeat and offered an honest review in her press conference.

“If I’m being frank… I didn’t know how to cope with not playing well,” the 21-year-old admitted.

“I was sulking. I feel like last year I did a lot of that and I’m trying to change it more, and I think I have, like towards the end of last year. So hopefully this isn’t like a reoccurring thing.

“I feel like in a way that this experience for me is better than winning the tournament, because like this helpless feeling I have, I think today I learned sort of what I have to do to not fix it, but what I can do to like improve the situation.

“There aren’t many moments that I feel like that. But, yeah, I feel like today was a very valuable lesson.”

Tsurenko didn’t face a break point until 3-2 up in the second set and managed to dismiss both to remain in control.

The Ukrainian claimed her consistently positive attitude on court provided the perfect platform for her success so far in Brisbane.

“I just really enjoy playing. Even in the tough moments it is exciting. It’s just fun to be on court,” said the world No.27, who admitted she will keep tabs on the second semifinal this evening.

“I will for sure watch it, the tennis is always on TV in my room. It’s a good idea to watch your opponents. Both players are playing so well, they will be so confident, so it’s another challenge for me tomorrow.

“I’m sure I will be nervous a little bit, but it makes it even more exciting. I mean it’s the first final of premier. That’s what I wanted to achieve last year, but it didn’t happen. So I’m really happy that in 2019 I went to the final at the first tournament that I played.”

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