September 22, 2018 / 7:16 AM / 2 months ago

Red-hot Osaka powers past Giorgi into Tokyo final

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka stormed past Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3 on Saturday to reach the final of the Pan Pacific Open, where she will face Karolina Pliskova.

Tennis - Pan Pacific Open Women's Singles Semifinal match - Arena Tachikawa Tachihi, Tokyo, Japan - September 22, 2018. Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts after defeating Camila Giorgi of Italy. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Osaka’s victory in front of an expectant home crowd was her 10th in a row and did not look in doubt from the moment the world number seven pounded down a huge ace with her first serve of the match.

The 20-year-old, who became Japan’s first Grand Slam singles champion in New York two weeks ago, hit a further eight aces to overwhelm world number 37 Giorgi.

Osaka has carried the poise and power that saw her overcome Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows final across the Pacific with her and, helped by eight double-faults from Giorgi, wrapped up the victory in just 72 minutes.

A runner up at this event two years ago, Osaka has not dropped a set so far this week and has had her service broken just once.

“It’s a bit surprising but I felt kind of calm going into the first round match and a lot of people were surprised because they thought I would be very nervous,” Osaka told reporters of her stunning run of form.

“Today was the first match that I felt nervous. But other than that I feel like I’ve been playing well and I’ve been trying to set little goals for myself.

“Because if you set a really high goal, than normally, for me at least, I tend to overwhelm myself. I’m trying to stay at a consistent level so hopefully I can keep doing that.”

PLISKOVA BATTLES ON

Osaka advanced to face world number eight Pliskova in the final after the big-serving Czech outlasted Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-2 4-6 6-3 in a topsy-turvy match that lasted more than two hours.

Pliskova has spent more time on court than any other player at this tournament despite a first round bye and was once again dragged into a long contest by a dogged Vekic.

The former world number one started as if intent on finishing the contest as quickly as possible, storming to a 4-0 lead before wrapping up the first set in less than half an hour.

Vekic, though, had defeated top 10 players Sloane Stephens and Caroline Garcia en route to the last four and recovered from an early break in the second set to secure two of her own.

A weary-looking Pliskova dug deep in the decider and the quality of her superior hitting eventually told as she broke Vekic’s resolve with a strong start to the third set.

“I think tomorrow is a completely different day,” said Pliskova, who admitted to feeling tired during the second set.

“It’s the final, so you just forget about all those minutes that you spent on the court. It’s the last match also, so I just want to put in everything, what I have left in body.”

Currently just outside the eight qualifying spots for next month’s WTA Finals in Singapore, Pliskova has now spent 420 minutes on court in Tokyo compared to 222 minutes for Osaka.

Both players are in the top 10 in terms of number of aces served on the tour this year.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“I have played Pliskova twice already and so I know she is a great player,” said Osaka, who won their last meeting at Indian Wells.

“She has basically every shot and she has a really good serve, so I know it will be a very difficult match.”

Pliskova added: “I know her game. I have my weapons, she also has hers. It’s going to be a lot about serves.”

Editing by Nick Mulvenney/John O'Brien

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