Osaka beats Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 to win Indian Wells title
By BETH HARRIS
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Naomi Osaka was dazed and confused.
Her backhand ticked the baseline on match point, and she paused, unsure whether it was good or not.
It was, and still there no was big celebration. Two hours later, she was equally low-key.
"I don't really know what's going on right now," she said, smiling. "I really feel like I have another match I have to play tomorrow, and it didn't really sink in that I won."
Osaka routed Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday in a matchup of 20-year-old rising stars that marked the first title of her career.
Osaka's victory capped a run that included beating two-time winner Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Karolina Pliskova and top-ranked Simona Halep during the two-week tournament. She dropped one set in seven matches.
The Japan-born Osaka will rise from 44th to a career-high No. 22 in Monday's WTA Tour rankings.
Osaka needed just 70 minutes to dispatch No. 19 Kasatkina, who had an equally impressive showing in the desert.
Among those the Russian beat was U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 10 Angelique Kerber and No. 8 Venus Williams. Kasatkina will move up eight spots to No. 11.
"I beat very good players, and in the right moments I was doing the right decisions, so it means I'm growing as a player," Kasatkina said. "This is the most important things for me."
The players traded service breaks to open the match. Osaka gained the only other break of the first set with a backhand winner on the sideline to go up 5-3. She gave up just one point on her serve in the next game to take the set, 6-3.
Both players were visited by their coaches during the changeover.
Osaka's coach told her not to worry about what Kasatkina was doing.
"I was extremely stressed and extremely nervous," Osaka said. "But my plan was to, like, fake that I'm very calm."
The Russian's coach told her: "I want to see Dasha. It's your heart."
He didn't see much of what got Kasatkina to the final, however.
She was broken to open the second set and again in the fifth game, giving Osaka a 4-1 lead on her forehand winner down the line.
"I think we were both nervous at the beginning, because the biggest finals so far," Kasatkina said. "But during the match she was able to manage her nerves and stuff, and I was still a little bit tight."
Osaka served a love game to go up 5-1. Kasatkina held at 5-2 but won just one point on Osaka's final service game.
"I wasn't that aggressive," Osaka said. "I was just more consistent."
She earned $1,340,860 for the victory, nearly double her career winnings of $1,483,053. She is the first unseeded winner since Kim Clijsters in 2005 and the second-youngest since Ana Ivanovic in 2008.
Until Indian Wells, Osaka had made it past the quarterfinals at a WTA event just once, when she was runner-up in Tokyo 18 months ago.
Her inexperience at making victory speeches showed.
"Hi, I'm Naomi," she began, trying out her wry sense of humor on the crowd.
"OK, never mind," she quickly blurted.
After nervously hesitating in ticking off thank-yous, Osaka said, "This is probably going to be the worst acceptance speech of all time."
Afterward, she admitted, "That was pretty embarrassing."
Osaka thanked her Haiti-born father and Japan-born mother, who weren't on hand. She moved to the U.S. as a 3-year-old and holds dual citizenship. She lives and trains in South Florida.
Osaka visibly flinched when streamers were shot off. She stepped gingerly toward the crystal trophy resting on a stand and delicately placed her hands on each side of it. She shook her head in declining to pick up the heavy prize.
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Updated March 18, 2018