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Naomi Osaka breezes into Miami Open semis over ailing Collins
The former world No. 1 retained a sharp focus to dispatch her American opposition in 60 minutes flat under the Hard Rock Stadium lights.
Published Mar 30, 2022
WATCH: Osaka played pristine tennis Tuesday night, making just three unforced errors in two sets.
Naomi Osaka quite literally won her match with time to spare on Tuesday night, breezing by Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins so quickly that fans would have to wait an hour before Stefanos Tsitsipas arrived to take on Carlos Alcaraz.
On-court emcee Andrew Krasny offered to keep Osaka for an extended interview but it was a polite decline from the former world No. 1.
“I’m not that great of a conversationalist,” Osaka giggled, “so it might not go that well.”
Osaka indeed let her racquet do the talking during a brutal 60-minute stretch that allowed Collins under 30 points for the match. Playing her best tennis since securing her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne, Collins was visibly hindered by a neck injury—particularly on serve, forcing her to resort to an underarmed delivery in the final game.
Still, it was on the four-time major champion to stay focused in the face of a wounded but famously tenacious opponent. A week removed from allowing an obnoxious fan unnerve her into a straight-set BNP Paribas Open defeat, Osaka showed off her rediscovered sense of self with aplomb under the Hard Rock Stadium lights, striking 25 winners to just three errors to score a 6-2, 6-1 win.
“I hope she’s ok,” she said after the match. “I’ve actually never seen her do that before so I think it might be pretty serious. I’m glad I was able to get through easily or, not easily, but just quickly. I focused on hitting a lot of good returns.”
Osaka has endured nearly a year in the tennis wilderness and after reaching her lowest point in the California desert, the 24-year-old added a therapist to her arsenal in the hopes of sharpening her mental strength back to its tunnel-vision best.
Sometimes I’m hyper-focused and sometimes I can hear what people are saying. Clearly! Naomi Osaka on courtside distractions
“Sometimes I’m hyper-focused and sometimes I can hear what people are saying. Clearly!” she joked, referencing the Indian Wells incident. “[Tonight] there was someone over there that was yelling “Break!” every time I was about to break, or “Hit a first serve!” I thought that was kind of funny, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere tonight!”
Shouting out the Haitians in the crowd with a “Sak pase?” Osaka celebrated her first night-match win in Miami since the tournament moved from Crandon Park, and will next face Swiss nemesis Belinda Bencic for what would be her first final since she won the Australian Open last February.
Bencic has won all three of their previous tour-level matches—all of which occurred in 2019—and ended the Japanese star’s US Open title defense to reach her first major semifinal. Suffering from the effects of long-haul COVID-19 earlier in the season, the 25-year-old is also yet to drop a set in Miami, ending Aussie wild card Daria Saville’s run by an identical 6-2, 6-1 scoreline earlier this afternoon.
A look at their head-to-head may have triggered an ocean of self-doubt in Osaka just a few weeks ago, but should she remain in her zone, she’ll see it as a fresh opportunity to hit through the experienced counterpuncher and end the hard-court swing in a way that will have everyone talking.