The Hong Kong Telegraph - Tearful Osaka rallies past Bencic to reach Miami Open final

Hong Kong -


Tearful Osaka rallies past Bencic to reach Miami Open final
Tearful Osaka rallies past Bencic to reach Miami Open final

Tearful Osaka rallies past Bencic to reach Miami Open final

Naomi Osaka cried tears of joy after reaching the Miami Open final for the first time before her mind turned towards something else.

Text size:

The Japanese star has ridden an emotional rollercoaster recently and after a heckler deeply upset her in Indian Wells, on Thursday night in south Florida Osaka couldn’t keep the smile off her face.

A 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Olympic champion Belinda Bencic took the four time Grand Slam champion into Saturday’s final, although picking up some dinner rather than lifting her first trophy since the 2021 Australian Open was occupying her thoughts more than anything.

"Unprofessional answer and professional answer, what I'm honestly thinking now is like how to get Korean food Uber Eats to my place, because there is nothing inside of the delivery range," smiled Osaka, who was visibly emotional at the end of her win and will play either world number one Iga Swiatek or American Jessica Pegula for the title this weekend.

"I have just been really wanting to eat like the LA galbi, the marinated Korean beef ribs," she said. "It's been in my head for a while but in terms of the match, I'm glad I was able to pull through."

Osaka has been very open about her struggles with mental health which came to the fore last year at the French Open when she decided to leave the tournament after just one match and take some time away from tennis.

She sought help from a therapist in the aftermath of Indian Wells and the 24-year-old has cut a very relaxed and focused figure in Miami, enjoying life and on and off the court, even though the Covid-19 pandemic has forced her to take solace in the shadows, at least for the time being.

"If I hadn't said anything at the French Open, I don't think anyone would have known about the things I was going through," said the quirky current world number 77, who said she's been getting pumped up to perform by listening to a curated playlist entitled "sad."

"It's not new to me," she said. "People are saying to me 'you're back.' But to be honest, I don't think I ever left. I have always been this player.

"I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my thoughts, in this particular case, it's because I haven't been in the finals in a while, or I guess in a big tournament like this in a while.

"I was really nervous beforehand."

- Definitely happiness -

Osaka has a soft spot for south Florida. Her family moved there in 2006 so she could concentrate on her tennis yet she added: ”I like to go out, but I don't know why I still feel scared to get close to people because of Covid.

"My worst nightmare would be to get to the final and then have to pull out because I'm sick so I tend to stay at home most of the time."

Whoever plays the Japanese will have their hands full. She has only dropped one set - the opener against Bencic who also came into the clash with a perfect record up until this point - and hit 18 aces against the Swiss while maintaining a healthy first serve percentage.

Bencic had won three of her four prior matches against the Japanese star, but Osaka fought back in style to reach her first final on the Miami hardcourts, before wiping away the tears.

"It wasn't really relief at the end," she said. "It was definitely happiness."