Efficient Pliskova proves too strong for 'tired' Osaka

TOKYO Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic hits a return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the Pan Pacific Open final on Sunday.—AFP

Pliskova took advantage, capitalising both times when presented with a break point and winning the last 11 points to secure her second WTA title of the campaign.

Sensing blood, Pliskova broke for 5-4 and, moments later, delivered the coup de grace with a sixth ace Osaka barely wafted her racket at.

At the 2016 US Open, unseeded players Caroline Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka both put on noteworthy performances: Wozniacki, whose year had been hampered by injuries that caused her ranking to plummet, left NY back in the top 30 after a run to the semifinals.

The title is the 11th of Pliskova's career and her fifth straight triumph in a final.

The players had split their previous two meetings, but Osaka started the final as favourite after her historic NY triumph. "As I am feeling very exhausted today, maybe I wasn't doing the little things well".

A runner up at this event two years ago, Osaka has not dropped a set so far this week and has had her service broken just once.

Pliskova is set to climb to the seventh position in the WTA rankings and strengthens her chances of competing in a third consecutive WTA Finals Singapore. Kiki Bertens, now in eighth place, competes in the final of the Korea Open later yesterday.

Pliskova and Osaka had split their previous two meetings, but the hometown hero started the Tokyo meeting as the favourite after her historic NY triumph.

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But never the less, the fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, slowly turned the screw and broke for 3-2 with a fizzing backhand.

As the strain began to show, a dejected Osaka called for coach Sascha Bajin and groaned: "I feel so stressed out!".

Fittingly, Pliskova wrapped up the match in the same way Osaka had started it - with an ace - to take victory.

Pliskova battles onOsaka advanced to face world number eight Pliskova in the final after the big-serving Czech outlasted Croatia's Donna Vekic 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in a topsy-turvy match that lasted more than two hours.

"I think Donna was playing well and she's beaten a lot of tough players this tournament".

Undaunted by the partisan crowd, the 26-year-old Pliskova was willing to mix it up with the hard-hitting home favorite from the outset, riding her own powerful serve and ground strokes to victory.

"I've never felt more exhausted in my entire life", she said, admitting that a much-needed rest was in order.

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