Karolina Pliskova shrugged off a difficult week going into the final to win the WTA Tokyo title by beating favourite Naomi Osaka in the final on Sunday.
The world number eight Pliskova, who is yet to win a Grand Slam title despite having been ranked number one in the world at one time, needed just two sets to defeat her Japanese opponent. She won 6-4, 6-4 to clinch the title.
Pliskova v Osaka Preview:
Well, that might not exactly be true. While Osaka is only 20 years old, she has already won a Grand Slam title. It was a trophy that she won by overcoming her idol Serena Williams in the final of the recently-concluded US Open. And despite the brouhaha that was created in that match and after, Osaka hasn’t really allowed it to affect her play.
On the other hand, speaking of the differences between the two players, Pliskova has been on the WTA circuit for a whole now, having played her first Grand Slam competition way back in 2012. In these six years, however, Pliskova has made it to the final of a Grand Slam just once – also in the US Open, in 2016 – where she lost to Angelique Kerber.
One other semi-final – at the 2017 French Open – and a string of four other quarter-finals, including three of her previous five Grand Slams imply one of two things. Or both. She is ready to take that next step and it’s a matter of time before a Grand Slam victory could be hers. Or there is a tendency to choke at the latter stages of the majors for Pliskova.
Either way, she will be up against a Grand Slam champion, one, who at 20, had not just beaten Williams, but also overcome a string of on-court controversies around her opponent in doing so. With the match threatening to boil over for those reasons, Osaka did well to maintain her calm and see it through to a proper conclusion.
And not just that, she has now won 10 matches in a row since her defeat at the Cincinnati Open, which includes three victories in this competition at Tokyo. The most games Osaka has lost in a set in this Tokyo Open has been four, having beaten Dominika Cibulkova, Barbora Strycova and Camila Girogi in straight sets to make it to the final.
On the other hand, Pliskova has had a struggle but she has come out of her problems well to enter the title-decider. She lost the first set to Daria Gavrilova in her opener before winning 6-4, 6-4 and then overcame Alison Riske and Donna Vekic in three-setters to set up this meeting with Osaka.
With the two players ranked seventh and eighth in the world, there might not be much to choose between these two but Osaka’s youth might give her the edge over Pliskova’s exhaustion from having played back-to-back three-setters.