Naomi Osaka vs. Dominika Cibulkova | 2018 Toray Pan Pacific Open Round 2 | 大坂なおみ
Naomi Osaka’s presence is being felt at the Toray Pan Pacific Open this week.
The tournament has been played in September since 2007 and usually creates at least a little buzz by attracting a few top players, even in its slot after the U.S. Open.
That’s mostly due to Osaka, who became an instant sensation in Japan by defeating Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final on Sept. 9 to become the first Japanese player, female or male, to win a Grand Slam singles title.
A lot of that attention is now being centered around the Pan Pacific Open (PPO), where Osaka is competing for the first time since her U.S. Open triumph, and the excitement level is higher that it’s ever been among fans.
Camila Giorgi vs. Caroline Wozniacki | 2018 Toray Pan Pacific Open Round Two | WTA Highlights
Naomi Osaka vs. Barbora Strycova | 2018 Toray Pan Pacific Open Quarterfinals 東レPPOテニス | 大坂なおみ
Naomi Osaka raised her game when she needed to, and it landed her a spot in the semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open.
The U.S. Open champion, who upset Serena Williams in the final in New York at the beginning of the month, won her ninth straight match Friday, beating Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4.
"This was my third time playing her, and each time it was very close, so I knew she was very good," said the third-seeded Osaka, the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Off the court, Naomi Osaka shies away from attention. On it, she thrives off a rowdy crowd. It's just one of the paradoxes that has so far worked for the US Open champ, and what will propel her to become one of tennis' biggest stars.
Osaka will next face Camila Giorgi, who advanced after Victoria Azarenka retired from their match with an illness in the first set. Giorgi was leading 5-3 when the match ended.
Naomi Osaka vs. Camila Giorgi | 2018 Toray Pan Pacific Open Semifinals 大坂なおみ | WTA Highlights
Naomi Osaka eased into the final of the Pan Pacific Open on Saturday with a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 semifinal win over Camila Giorgi.
The US Open champion, who upset Serena Williams in the final in New York this month, overpowered her unseeded opponent with a dominant serve and will face fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in Sunday's final.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Donna Vekic | 2018 Toray Pan Pacific Open Semifinals
Osaka hammered nine aces over the course of the victory and dropped just eight points in eight service games over the course of the match.
"My serve got me out of a lot of trouble today," said Osaka. "She was playing really well, and my serve helped me. I was a bit nervous because I really wanted to reach the final."
If you have followed her on the main stage over the past year, it might not make any sense. Off the court, she shies away from people and conversations; she is self-admittedly nerdy and loves playing video games into the wee hours of the night; she gets, um, nervous, before big matches. She apologizes, a lot. She goes on random trains of thought and calls her brain weird. She is shy and funny, especially in press conferences.
"She's such a perfectionist that she just gets down on herself and is too hard to herself, so I have to be the contrast to do that," Sascha Bajin, Osaka's coach and former hitting partner to the stars (Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, to name a few), told reporters earlier this year. "If she's too negative, I have to go and say, 'It's OK. The earth is round. The grass is green.' And we keep moving on. But in general, she's more hard on herself than she should be. ... For a 20-year-old to stay this humble ... I mean, we went to the movies celebrating Indian Wells victory."