Naomi Osaka to play for title in home city

Published by Reuters

Naomi Osaka in action at the WTA Toray Pan Pacific Open in Osaka (Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka reaches her third WTA Pan Pacific Open final and will be gunning for her first title in Osaka against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

World No.4 Naomi Osaka showed no signs of fatigue as she powered past Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-4 6-1 in her second match of the day to reach the Pan Pacific Open final on Saturday.

Osaka was forced to double up after persistent showers had washed out her quarterfinal against Yulia Putintseva on Friday and the top seed outclassed her Kazakh opponent 6-4 6-4 — her first win over Putintseva in four attempts — to advance to the semifinals in Osaka, Japan.

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Up next for the twice Grand Slam champion is Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who ended Angelique Kerber’s resurgence with a 6-3 6-3 victory.

“It’s been kind of rough like the past couple of months so I’m really glad that I made it to the final,” said Osaka, who parted ways with coach Jermaine Jenkins after a disappointing US Open title defence.

“I wasn’t that tired. I think I had a pretty good fitness level going into this tournament, so that really helped me.

“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.”

Osaka, runner-up in 2016 and 2018 when the tournament was held in Tokyo, will play in her first final since she winning the Australian Open title on the hard courts of Melbourne.

The 21-year-old earlier said it was her preferred surface after dispatching Putintseva, who shocked the Japanese in the first round of Wimbledon this year and had never before dropped a set to Osaka.

“I learned a lot from when I played her at Wimbledon, and I know that a hardcourt is where I feel most comfortable,” Osaka said.

“And also, I’m playing in Japan, so I thought I had the advantage this time around.”

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