After a winning serve that marked game, set and match, Naomi Osaka clenched her first and bent toward the ground for a quiet but emotional moment.
She did not need to yell or scream in celebration. She let her performance do the talking.
Osaka advanced to the final of the Miami Open on Thursday with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. The 24-year-old from Japan recorded 18 aces, which marked the most by any player in a match this season.
“This tournament means a lot to me,” Osaka said during an on-court interview. “It’s my first time in the finals here. I’m really thankful.”
At the beginning of the tourney, it seemed unlikely that Osaka would reach the final. She is ranked No. 77 in the world, which makes her the lowest-ranked finalist in Miami Open history. That record previously belonged to Kim Clijsters, who won the tournament in 2005 as the No. 38-ranked player.
Osaka will face either Jessica Pegula of the U.S. or Iga Swiatek of Poland in the title match Saturday afternoon.
Bencic built a 4-1 lead in the first set on her way to victory. Osaka bounced back in the second set to grab a 4-2 edge on a forehand winner, and she held on to even the match.
In the third set, Osaka established a 5-2 lead and endured a challenging comeback attempt by Bencic before sealing the outcome.
“I didn’t really feel like I figured her out,” Osaka said. “I felt like all I could do was keep fighting for every point. Somehow I managed to win. She is a really amazing player.”
–Field Level Media