Naomi Osaka mounted a comeback victory over No. 22 Belinda Bencic on Thursday, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the Miami Open final. It’s her first championship final since the former world No. 1 won the Australian Open in 2021.
It’s also Osaka’s fourth career WTA 1000 final and her first in over a year.
“In the second set I just told myself, ‘Listen, if she beats you, someone is going to have to carry you off the court in a stretcher, because you’re going to fight for everything,'” Osaka said. “I think I just got opportunities and I was able to see them as opportunities. So I was able to push myself through it.
“I’m honestly glad that this was such a tough match, because I feel like you need that learning experience, and I learned a lot from today.”
On Twitter, she said that she’s “just so grateful right now.”
“Cheers to the ups and downs of life for making me appreciate this moment even more,” she wrote.
Man idk what’s going on but I’m just so grateful right now. Cheers to the ups and downs of life for making me appreciate this moment even more. We’re back in a final, see you on Saturday ❤️ pic.twitter.com/cNxV1lZC7d— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) April 1, 2022
Man idk what’s going on but I’m just so grateful right now. Cheers to the ups and downs of life for making me appreciate this moment even more. We’re back in a final, see you on Saturday ❤️ pic.twitter.com/cNxV1lZC7d
Osaka fired off 18 aces in the win, the most of any player on Tour so far this season.
After dropping the first set, Osaka began to find her groove, firing off 16 winners compared to just seven unforced errors in the second set. In the third, she forced a break to go up 3-2 and didn’t look back, taking the set 6-4.
With a current world ranking of No. 77, Osaka becomes the lowest-ranked Miami Open finalist, breaking a record previously held by Kim Clijsters, who won the title in 2005 while ranked at No. 38 in the world.
Osaka, who is projected to rise up to No. 36 in next week’s rankings, could return to the Top 30 with the title. She’ll go up against projected world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won 16 straight matches.
Swiatek took care of No. 16 Jessica Pegula on Thursday in a straight-set win, 6-2, 7-5.