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Miami (AFP) – Tears of joy this time around: Naomi Osaka, former world No.1 qualifier down to 77th, for the final of the WTA 1000 competition in Miami, which signaled her return to the field after a year of turmoil big on the mental plane.
But the hardest part remains to be done for the 24 – year – old Japanese, who defeated Swiss Belinda Bencic (28th) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. She will indeed try to win the 8th tournament on the women’s circuit, on Saturday, against Iga Swiatek of Poland, world N.1 futures, or American Jessica Pegula (21st).
For the first final in Florida, she will have to overcome any sense of achievement ahead of time, as well as the emotion, which made her a little invaded after greeting her opponent, whom she later honored.
“I did not feel that I understood her game at all and still managed to get the win. She is a great player. I would love to have her back. I just wanted to thank everyone. L The atmosphere was very good, “Osaka said on the court, misty eyes.
“Damn, I’m still crying! But this tournament means a lot to me,” she said with a laugh that was in stark contrast to her cry two weeks ago, in Indian Wells, where the Japanese knew the third episode. tear, during and after. lost his game in the second round at Indian Wells, after a verbal provocation from a member of the public (“Naomi you suck!”).
The question then arose again about his future in professional tennis, for the one who had confidence, at the time of Roland-Garros last June, that he had been concerned about for several years.
Since then, several moments of distress have occurred. First at the Cincinnati tournament in August, then, in mondovision, the following month at the US Open, in a press conference, after eliminating surprises in round 3 against Canadian Leylah Fernandez.
“I have to declare myself”
She then took a break and only returned to the tournament in January at the Australian Open, where she was the defensive champion but was stopped in the 3rd round.
Since the last episode in California, Osaka has started working with a therapist and said she felt the first benefits of this approach.
This was evident on the courts in Miami, since she won her first four games without losing the smallest team and even less capacity, praising the great champion, a four – time Grand Slams winner back (under twice at the ‘Australian Open, twice at). the US Open).
For this fifth meeting, she had to surrender a team, the first, overwhelmed by Bencic ‘s aggression, excelling in the backhand and who knows how to beat her, as she had won three of the first four clashes.
But Osaka has shown that she knows how to react again in the face of adversity. After breaking a second time in the second set to lead 4-2, she maintained this advantage by relying on her powerful service (18 aces).
And as she entered the third set, she showed great determination, often clenching her fists and jumping between exchanges to move on better. “At this stage, I have to assert myself. In the face of such strong players, I have to allow myself to be beaten. If I had this negative feeling, I would. I could win, “she explains.
Osaka continued in the third tier, stealing twice on Swiss service, which still came back to 5-4. Not even fear: the Japanese were able to conclude without trembling.
© 2022 AFP