Naomi Osaka blitzes top seed Simona Halep en route to Indian Wells final | tennis | Hindustan Times
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Naomi Osaka blitzes top seed Simona Halep en route to Indian Wells final

Simona Halep was the overwhelming favourite but the three-time grand slam finalist was outclassed by Japan’s Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-0 on Friday.

tennis Updated: Mar 17, 2018 12:51 IST
By Sacha Pisani
Naomi Osaka (Japan) during her semi-final against Simona Halep (not pictured) in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California on March 16, 2018.
Naomi Osaka (Japan) during her semi-final against Simona Halep (not pictured) in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California on March 16, 2018. (USA TODAY Sports)

It will be a battle of the 20-year-olds in the Indian Wells Masters final after Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka crushed world number one Simona Halep in straight sets.

Simona Halep was the overwhelming favourite but the three-time grand slam finalist was outclassed by hard-hitting Osaka 6-3 6-0 on Friday.

Naomi Osaka – who eliminated five-time major winner Maria Sharapova in the opening round – was not overawed against an error-prone Halep as she reached her maiden Premier Mandatory decider after just over an hour on court.

The shock victory set up a meeting with fellow 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina following the Russian’s win over Venus Williams.

Simona Halep during her semi-final against Naomi Osaka in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (USA TODAY Sports)

Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka met at the Australian Open in Melbourne, where Halep improved to 3-0 against Osaka thanks to a straight-sets win at Melbourne Park in January.

But it was not as straightforward for Halep – who had not faced a seeded player heading into the semis – on Friday as Osaka’s brute power proved troublesome for the Romanian star.

Osaka stormed out of the blocks in the opening set, breaking in the second game for a 2-0 lead.

Halep, who only won 33 per cent of her second serves in the first set, slowly found her rhythm – hitting some impressive winners to level the contest at 2-2 and 3-3.

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, returns a shot against Simona Halep, of Romania, during the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Indian Wells, California. (AP)

But it was nothing compared to Osaka, who continued to respond to everything thrown at her as she broke again for a 5-3 advantage before serving out the set.

It was a similar story in the second set, Osaka – like she did in the first – getting on top early, going up a double-break against a clearly unsettled Halep.

Halep continued to record unforced errors – 27 in total while she only converted one of seven break points – as the Australian Open runner-up bowed out with a second-set bagel, despite saving two match points.