Osaka shocks Halep to reach final


With top seed and World No 1 Simona Halep up against Naomi Osaka, and in-form World No 8 Venus Williams taking on Daria Kasatkina, you would have been forgiven for predicting a Venus vs Halep final.

Russian Daria Kasatkina toppled her third top-10 player in a row Friday to reach the WTA Indian Wells final, shocking world number eight Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

The win extends the Cinderella run for the tournament's 20th seed, who defeated grand slam champions Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber without dropping a set before going the distance to take down Williams. The world No. 19 is now 10-16 lifetime against the top 10. "Too many emotions and you can not explain everything".

"Maybe one of the best nights in my life, for sure", she said. "She was better. I just was not ready and played wrong".

And, after almost three hours on court, that's precisely what she did, earning a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory to advance to her first WTA Premier Mandatory final. The sheer power of Naomi's shots proved to be too hard to handle for Halep who got broken five times from seven opportunities she gave to Osaka, losing 56% of the points in her games. "I have to stop making that many errors against her".

Halep offered few excuses for her baffling display but felt that the long wait to get on court had not helped her cause.

"We are same age, first of all", Kasatkina said.

The 20-year-old came into the semi-final contest full of confidence, having eliminated two-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber, US Open victor Sloane Stephens and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki. After early exchanges of service breaks in the third set, Kasatkina edged ahead in the 11th game to lead 6-5 before serving out the match. There were 14 breaks of serve in the hard-hitting match.

"I just didn't feel the ball at all".

"[After a] match like this, you're just speechless", she said. I don't find excuses.

As the buzzer was sounding on the biggest upset in men's NCAA tournament history Friday night, another giant-killer was stepping up to make history of her own. Kasatkina , who is ranked 19th in the world, has beaten all four reigning Grand Slam winners in the past year, including US Open victor Sloane Stephens in the third round in Indian Wells.

And so the final will be contested by two 20-year-olds.

Ranked 44th, the Japan-born Osaka opened the tournament by beating Maria Sharapova in the first round.

This second semi-final was, however, a huge anti-climax.

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