Naomi Osaka lifted her first trophy since winning the Australian Open in January, blasting past Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3 in the Pan Pacific Open final on Sunday.
Her victory marked a return to the ruthless form that helped world number four Osaka claim last year’s US Open crown before her Melbourne success, with the 21-year-old not dropping a set all week in Osaka, Japan.
“I just wanted to win this really bad,” Osaka, who has endured several lows this season and sacked two coaches in the space of seven months, told a news conference.
She became the first Japanese player to win the title since Kimiko Date in 1995.
“I think what I learned from this tournament is just to focus every point, and just to have really positive energy,” Osaka added.
Osaka relied on her powerful serve and groundstrokes to break world number 41 Pavlyuchenkova early in the contest and cruise through the opening set.
Chasing her first title in the tournament having made the final twice before — in 2016 and 2018 when it was held in Tokyo — Osaka started the second set in similarly dominant fashion but Pavlyuchenkova saved three break points to hold for 2-4.
However, there was no denying Osaka as she closed out the match on her third matchpoint and stayed on course to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
Olympic badminton champion Marin completes comeback with China title
Olympic champion Carolina Marin made a successful comeback on Sunday by defending her China Open title eight months after suffering a career-threatening injury.
The Spaniard tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right leg during the final of the Indonesia Masters in January and had to undergo surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation before returning to court.
The tournament in Changzhou was only the second for the triple world champion after she lost in the first round of the Vietnam Open last week.
Marin faced Tai Tzu Ying in Sunday’s final, having lost her last six meetings against the Taiwanese world number four. She took time to get going but rallied to beat the former world number one 14-21 21-17 21-18.
Marin slumped on the court and broke into tears as Tai sent a forehand crosscourt shot wide on match point.
“I cannot describe my feelings right now because I’m so happy,” Marin was quoted as saying by the Badminton World Federation on its website.
“There was some frustration with myself in the first game. I tried to keep calm. I had to be patient and find the good length on the shuttle. But the most important thing is I could fight until the end.
“I just waited until she made mistakes. I just wanted to play some long rallies because I knew this match was going to be really tough. She has good strokes, she has so much deception that I had to be careful.”
Tai found her opponent more skillful than before.
“The wind was coming from a different direction compared to the past few days. I made quick adjustments at the start of the match but towards the end, she played at a very fast pace,” Tai said.
“I also made many unforced errors. But I have to admit that she played very well today.
“I think there’s not much difference, she is still very fast. I also feel that she is more skillful now. I also noticed that she maintained her speed in every match. She is much better at the net and has more variety of shots.”
Divij Sharan claims fifth career title, wins St Petersburg Open doubles
India’s Divij Sharan on Sunday claimed his fifth ATP career title after winning the St Petersburg Open doubles crown, partnering Igor Zelenay of Slovakia in St Petersburg.
The Indo-Slovakian got past Italian pair of Matteo Berrettini and Simone Bolelli 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 in tie-breaker in the hard-fought summit clash that lasted for one hour and 17 minutes.
This is Divij’s second title of the season after winning the Maharashtra Open in Pune earlier this year.
An ecstatic Divij dedicated the title to his mother on her birthday.
“It took a while to realise we actually won the match. It was so sudden. I would like to dedicate this win to my mother as it is her birthday today,” he said.
Divij said strong bonding between him and his partner did the trick for them in the marathon title clash.
The Indian also said he was happy for his partner Igor, who clinched his maiden ATP title.
“We grew stronger as a team match by match. We were really positive in every situation and I think that really helped us. We had each other’s backing especially when we were down,” Divij said.
“It’s actually Igor’s first ATP title, so it’s a great result for him.”
Analysing Sunday’s final, Divij said: “It was really a close match and we came back well in the tie-break. Berrittini was serving 6-3 and we came up with two really good returns.
“And then the last two points were really close as well.”
Superb Medvedev crushes Coric to seal St Petersburg Open crown
US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev continued his superb form in the second half of the season, beating Croatia’s Borna Coric 6-3, 6-1 in the St Petersburg Open final on Sunday to claim his third title of the year.
Medvedev was playing in his fifth consecutive final after Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open and the 23-year-old became the first Russian to claim the St Petersburg Open trophy since Mikhail Youzhny 15 years ago.
He broke Croatia’s Coric twice en route to taking the opening set and tightened his grip on the contest with two more breaks in the second to seal his sixth career title.
Should he maintain his form, the world number four will a top contender at November’s season-ending ATP Finals in London, in which he is due to appear for the first time.
Muchova finds her rhythm in Seoul to claim first title
Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova thrashed fourth seed Magda Linette 6-1, 6-1 in the Korea Open final on Sunday to claim her maiden WTA title.
World number 45 Muchova, who is enjoying the best season of her career having also reached the final in Prague, won 90% of points on her first serve and did not face a break point en route to the victory.
The 23-year-old, who stunned compatriot Karolina Pliskova in her run to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, took full advantage an error-prone performance by Linette who produced seven double faults in the 68-minute contest.
It was sweet revenge for Muchova, after Poland’s Linette had won the pair’s only previous meeting in the Bronx quarter-finals last month to claim her first WTA title.
Murray hoping to regain lost speed during Asian swing
Andy Murray is looking to improve his speed around the court as he steps up his return to singles action at the Zhuhai Championships in China following career-saving hip surgery.
Former world number one Murray, 32, is regaining his fitness after a hip resurfacing procedure at the start of the year and recorded the first two wins of his singles comeback at the Rafa Nadal Open Challenger tournament in Mallorca last month.
“I’m still kind of going through the recovery process from the operation. My muscles are still recovering, the ones that were cut during the procedure… sometimes I feel a little bit slow on the court,” Murray told reporters on Sunday.
“I’m hoping that with playing more at this level, more time to recover, I’ll start to get a little bit faster.
“The conditions here are difficult, very humid, which is always tough… I have no pain in my hip any more, so that’s a positive thing.”
Murray, who has dropped to 413 in the world rankings, will also compete in Beijing and Shanghai in the Asian swing of the ATP tour but the three-times major winner said his performance in Mallorca showed he still needed time to return to his best.
“I think physically I still have a lot of improving to do if I want to get back to competing on the tour at the highest level because it showed there that I wasn’t quite ready to play many matches in a row,” Murray, who lost in the third round, said.
“The last three weeks since that tournament, I’ve spent time working on my physical conditioning.”
Unseeded Murray will begin his Zhuhai campaign against American Tennys Sandgren, his conqueror in the Winston-Salem Open first round last month.
He also confirmed he would play in next year’s inaugural ATP Cup — a nation-based event ahead of the Australian Open.
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