Barty, Osaka to clash in dream China Open final

Published by AAP / Tennismash

Naomi Osaka (L) and Ash Barty embrace after their third-round match at Australian Open 2018, which Osaka won (Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka’s commanding win over Caroline Wozniacki sets up a China Open final against world No.1 Ash Barty — a match-up between reigning Grand Slam champions.

Naomi Osaka dominated Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday night in Beijing to move through to the China Open final.

There she will meet world No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who fought back to beat eighth-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in three thrilling sets.

Osaka had too much firepower for the defending Beijing champion, clouting 30 winners to Wozniacki’s 13 and saving all seven break points she faced — including three in the final game as she served for the match.

It marked her first win over the Dane in three attempts.

“I just thought that she’s beaten me the last couple times. Like even when we practice, she’s beaten me. I just didn’t try to put too much pressure on myself. I know she’s one of the best movers on tour, so I just expected a lot of long rallies,” Osaka said.

“Mostly when I play, it’s instinct. I guess I just went down the line on the backhand earlier to get the forehand crosses. That’s probably why it worked out.

“My serve is confusing to me. The percentage is really low, but when it goes in, it’s very helpful, I would say. I think in the moments that I’m really tight or there’s a very close situation, I can count on it like 80% of the time to pull through.”

Barty held off Bertens 6-3 3-6 7-6(7), overcoming a service break early in the third, clawing her way back from 0-3 in the tiebreak and saving one match point.

Bertens also saved an initial match point in a tiebreak thriller before Barty wrapped up the encounter in two hours 20 minutes.

It is Barty’s 19th win in a three-setter this year and her third in a row after beating Zheng Saisai in the last 16 and seventh seed Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, with both matches lasting more than two hours.

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“I enjoy those moments. I enjoy when it’s tight, when your back’s against the wall,” Barty said after her fifth career win over Bertens. “That really brings out the fun for me.

“It’s just been really nice to be able to play (these) two matches the last two days – incredible level. Regardless if I was on a plane home today, I probably wouldn’t have stressed any more or less about it.”

In a see-saw match, both players dropped serve three times with little to separate the two until the tiebreak decider.

Bertens first saved a match point with a forehand winner after a long rally to level scores at 6-6 before Barty saved a match point to fight back to 7-7. She then forced the Dutchwoman into an error and won the match on her next match point.

“I think it was a great match, great fight from both sides,” Bertens said. “It could go either way. It was not me today. I played the right way; I was coming forward; I played aggressive where I could.”

Barty won her most recent meeting with Osaka, on the grass of Nottingham in June 2018. Five months before that, Osaka beat Barty in the third round of the Australian Open.

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