the tears of joy of Osaka, finalist in Miami, who sees the end of the tunnel

Tears of joy this time: Naomi Osaka has qualified for the final of the Miami Open, where she will try to perform against the irresistible Iga Swiatek, future number 1 in the world, her return to the fore after a year of great psychological turmoil.

The 24-year-old Japanese woman, who dropped to 77th place after being at the top of the WTA rankings, seems to see the end of the tunnel.

She showed mental strength to beat Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 (28th). But for her first final in Florida, she will have to overcome any sense of accomplishment before time, as well as her excitement, which briefly washed over her after congratulating her opponent, to whom she paid tribute.

«I felt like I didn’t understand their game at all and yet I managed to win. She is an extraordinary player. I would like to have it back. She just wanted to say thank you everyone. the atmosphere was very goodshe said, her eyes misty.

«Damn, I’m still crying! But this tournament means a lot to me.“He added with a smile that obviously contrasted with his tears two weeks ago, in Indian Wells. The Japanese experienced a third tear there, during and after her elimination in the round of 16, after a verbal provocation from the stands (“Naomi, you suck!»).

Closed fist

Then the doubt of his future in professional tennis arose again, for whom he had trusted, at the time of Roland-Garros last June, to be plagued by anxiety for several years.

Since then, there have been several moments of anguish. First at the Cincinnati tournament in August, then the following month at the US Open, at a press conference, after her surprise elimination in the third round against Canadian Leylah Fernández.

She then took a break, only returning to competition in January at the Australian Open. She defending champion, she was released in the third round.

Two weeks ago, Osaka began working with a therapist and said she felt the first benefits of this approach.

This is how it was seen in Miami, since she won her first four matches without losing the slightest set and less her means, predicting the return of the formidable champion she was, a quadruple Grand Slam winner (two Australian Open, two US Open).

This time she conceded a set, the first, overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of Bencic, excellent on the backhand and who knows how to deal with it, having won three of their first four meetings.

But Osaka has once again shown that she knows how to react to adversity. Relying on his powerful serve (18 aces), he regained the lead to equalize with a set everywhere, showing great determination, often clenching his fists and jumping between rallies to better advance.

«At this point, I need to reaffirm myself. Against such strong players, I must not let myself be defeated. If I had that negative feeling, it could have cost me the victory.“, She explained.

Osaka continued in the third set, stealing serve twice from the Swiss, who leveled at 5-4. Not even fear: the Japanese knew how to conclude without trembling.

Iga Swiatek showed the same confidence to dismiss American Jessica Pegula (21) 6-2, 7-5. This is the 16th consecutive victory for the Pole, who this Monday will officially reach the top of the WTA ranking thanks to the retirement of the Australian Ashleigh Barty.

Undisputedly dominating the first set, Swiatek left no room for doubt in the second, when the American served three times to lead 3-1, then 4-2 and level at 5-5, erasing two match points.

The Pole did not allow herself to be overwhelmed by frustration. Sure of her tennis, she erased the affront with a shutout that upset her opponent on serve, to finally conclude after 1h50 of a match not as simple as that.

At twenty, the winner of Roland-Garros in 2020 can achieve the “double sun» (double Indian Wells/Miami), just to establish his current dominance on the circuit.

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