The plain and ordinary way to report this is that Naomi Osaka beat Daria Kasatkina in Sunday’s women’s final of the prestigious BNP Paribas tennis tournament. Plain and ordinary pretty well captures it.
The score was 6-3, 6-2. The match took 1 hour, 11 minutes and was never in doubt after the two nervous 20-year-olds broke serve to begin. Then Osaka broke serve again at 3-3 and never looked back.
Osaka — who has been in the United States since age 3, lives in Florida and plays for Japan (where her mother is from) — won because she was the aggressor throughout. It was a puncher versus a counterpuncher and Osaka was throwing most of the haymakers, though she later said wasn’t as aggressive as normal and was “just waiting to see what she (Kasatkina) was going to do.”
Which, overall, wasn’t much. Kasatkina’s approach seemed to be to hit everything back and hope. Defense may win Super Bowls, but not so many tennis matches.
Osaka kept going for it and Kasatkina kept letting her. Quickly, the matched turned into 71 minutes of ordinary. If fans were looking for fire-and ice tennis, they likely were disappointed. There was no Serena bombast, no Azarenka spunk, not even any Sharapova screeching. Just a lot of forehands and backhands. This one will not make the WTA’s top 10 highlight films.
To her credit, Kasatkina did not pretend she had played well.
“Basically,” she said, “she was much better than me today, so she deserved to win.
“I think we were both nervous at the beginning because this was (our) biggest finals so far. But during the match, she was able to manage her nerves and stuff and I was still a little bit tight. It is what it is.”
Osaka looked less stressed but said looks can be deceiving.
“I think towards the end,” she said, “I didn’t know that I won match point. So then, I was sort of like Caveman SpongeBob.”
(There’s a quote you don’t get a lot at sports events).
“I don’t really know what is going on right now,” Osaka continued. “I really feel like I have another match I have to play tomorrow, and it really didn’t sink in that I won.”
She said that anybody who thought she looked calm was wrong.
“I was extremely stressed and extremely nervous,” she said. “But my plan was to, like, fake that I’m very calm. I’m glad it worked.”
Osaka was calm enough to convert four of seven break points. She was calm enough to win 60 of the 100 points played in the match.
She wasn’t calm enough to get through her on-court acceptance speech without some glitches. She hemmed and hawed and eventually told the audience — in a packed stadium that seats 16,100 on a day when the tournament sold a record 18,347 tickets to get onto the grounds — that she had just delivered “the worst acceptance speech of all time.”
She explained later, “I knew what I was going to say, in what order. But when they called me, I freaked out. I just started saying whatever came into my mind. ...Yeah, it was pretty embarrassing.”
In a few days, Osaka’s victory will sink in. Later Sunday, she got on a private jet for the trip to her next big tournament in Miami. She said she would share the plane with Kasatkina, who is playing in the same event. Osaka said she won’t know what kind of discussion they will have.
“I don’t know how to start conversations,” Osaka said.
She will not need a conversation starter when she looks at her winner’s paycheck of $1.3 million, which nearly doubles her career earnings.
Her Sunday final? Pretty it wasn’t. Profitable it was.