UPDATE: Naomi Osaka beats Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-3 to win the first title of her career. Here is the final point of the match:


To that mythic figure known as the “casual tennis fan,” Osaka vs. Kasatkina may not ring any bells, or hold much interest. Both are just 20 years old; one is ranked No. 19, and the other is No. 40; and between them they’ve won a total of one pro title. Serena and Venus, or even Serena and Vika, who played the final in Indian Wells two years ago, this is not.

But for dedicated WTA followers, this final is something of a dream come true. At a time when tennis continues to age—last year’s Indian Wells final, for example, pitted 31-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova against 30-year-old Elena Vesnina—Osaka and Kasatkina are a welcome injection of wide-eyed youthful vigor. But they aren’t just any youngsters; the Russian and the Japanese are two of the tour’s most appealing new faces, with personalities that are at once genuine and self-deprecating. They’ll also bring appealingly contrasting playing styles to this final.

Tennis Channel's John Zinni breaks down Sunday's finals at Indian Wells in the Daily Mix:

Kasatkina turns spin into an art form. She whips over her forehand and carves under her backhand with equal facility; very few players with two-handed backhands are able to drop one hand off the racquet and slice the ball as naturally—as lyrically—as she does. Osaka is all about the visceral thrill of flat, pulverizing power; she takes the ball early and hits it hard, over and over.

Until this week, there had been undeniable flaws in each woman’s game: Kasatkina was too content to sit back and rally, while Osaka pulled the trigger on virtually every ball. So far at Indian Wells, each has shown the capacity for improvement. Kasatkina has looked to crack her forehand proactively, while Osaka is in better shape, which has allowed her to get to the ball sooner and hit it with more margin.

The result has been a two-woman, 10-day WTA coup d’état: Osaka has beaten Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep, all in straight sets; Kasatkina has knocked off Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams.

Match point from Osaka vs. Halep:


We’ll see how they do against each other, in their first meeting. An early starting time on Sunday could leave one or both of them flat, but if they can both find a groove, their match-up should give fans a satisfying blend of power and finesse, style and substance. With two players making their big-stage debuts together, anything could happen. But while I’m hesitant to pick a player to win her first career title at a Premier Mandatory event, Osaka’s march through the draw has been relentless and one-sided. Kasatkina will have a variety of options for keeping the ball out of Osaka’s strike zone and throwing her rhythm off. But with her power, Osaka will have the straightest path to victory.

WTA Indian Wells final preview: Daria Kasatkina vs. Naomi Osaka

WTA Indian Wells final preview: Daria Kasatkina vs. Naomi Osaka


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