Thursday, 28 May, 2020

'I was thinking too much,' says Naomi Osaka after Madrid exit

Simona Halep Simona Halep was replaced as world number one by Naomi Osaka in January
Cary Erickson | 14 May, 2019, 22:40

Reaching the last four would have secured Osaka's grasp on top spot for another week but her 3-6 6-2 7-5 loss to resurgent Swiss Bencic means Simona Halep can overtake her by winning the title.

They've split two clay matches. After a breakout 2018 season, which saw her win the biggest title of her career in Cincinnati - defeating four Top 10 players - Bertens qualified for her first WTA Finals and has continued to build on her success in 2019.

The victory gave Bertens her eighth career main tour tennis title and first Premier Mandatory event crown.

The 23-time grand slam champion will do battle with her older sibling 21 years after their only other previous match in Rome, which Venus won at the quarter-final stage.

It will come down to a battle between Bertens and her power game against Halep's more polished all-around play.

The Japanese had another chance to break in the next Bencic and this time she converted when the world number 18 missed a backhand, giving Osaka 3-1 lead. She's the only player to do this in tournament history.

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There, Bencic was in full flow, denying Halep any time to assert her baseline game. She got a high percentage of first serve in (87%), but won just 52% of first offerings and only 42% of second.

But that would quickly change at the start of the third, as a lapse in intensity and concentration from the Swiss was punished by Halep.

Simona could also achieve a better athletic freshness, as her opponent finished playing a few hours later in the semifinal of yesterday.

And the Romanian began to serve like a woman closer to 6ft than her 5ft6in stature, finding three serve winners to hold for 3-0. Bencic could not handle a vicious return to her feet, netted a volley-her first net error in 13-and Halep broke. About my game, I think I played wrong, and I'm upset about that. However, it was at this stage she looked to have become more distracted, getting broken to love before losing the next two games to enter the semi-finals.

It isn't just Madrid bragging rights that are on the line for Halep.

It will be a second straight final appearance in Madrid for seventh seed Bertens, who gained revenge on reigning champion Petra Kvitova in the last eight before defeating Sloane Stephens 6-2 7-5 on Friday.