Sports Desk, Mar 31 (EFE).- Naomi Osaka powered past Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the Miami Open final and move within one victory of her first tournament title since early 2021.
Earlier in the day, Polish defending champion Hubert Hurkacz thwarted world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev’s bid to get back to the top spot of the rankings by securing a 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 victory in quarterfinal action.
Osaka’s serve was the difference in her semifinal match against the Swiss world No. 28, as she fired a whopping 18 aces and won 79 percent of her first-serve points.
The Japanese player also did plenty of damage from the baseline, using potent forehands and backhands to break Bencic’s serve to go up 3-2 in the final set. A double fault by the Swiss later gave Osaka a double-break lead.
Although the four-time Grand Slam champion squandered one of those breaks, she was able to nail down the victory with one final service hold.
Osaka, now ranked No. 77 after a frustrating period of more than a year in which she has not won a singles title and was forced to take a hiatus from the WTA Tour to deal with depression and anxiety, will move back into the top 50 when the next rankings are released on April 4.
In Saturday’s final, she will face either American Jessica Pegula or Poland’s Iga Swiatek, who is currently riding a 15-match winning streak.
Swiatek will rise to world No. 1 when the new rankings are released due to reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty’s surprise decision last week to retire from the sport at age 25.
In Thursday’s first match on the stadium court, Hurkacz evened up his career record against Medvedev at 2-2 with an assured performance.
The 10th-ranked Pole finished off a close first set with a forehand winner.
He then broke Medvedev’s serve once early in the second set and then again to clinch the victory.
“I think the return was crucial. I was able to make a lot of returns and get some free points on my serve, because having rallies with Daniil is fun but they get long,” Hurkacz said in an on-court interview. “It is good I was able to get some free points.
Medvedev would have taken back the No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic by reaching the semifinals. EFE