Unseeded Naomi Osaka has won her first WTA title and simultaneously, she logged the record as the first Japanese player to win the Indian Wells final, routing Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday.
World number 44 Osaka rolled over Kasatkina, breaking her serve four times and winning the battle of the 20-year-old rising stars in just 70 minutes.
“I just knew that she was going to fight for every point, too,” said Osaka. “So I couldn’t afford to lose points based on nerves, and I had to keep making the right decisions.”
Osaka captured the title on her first match point by blasting a backhand into the open side of the court.
The Japanese dynamo improved to 13-4 on the season two days after her biggest previous win, a dominating semi-final triumph over world number one Simona Halep.
She was only the fourth unseeded player to reach the Indian Wells final, with the most recent before her being Kim Clijsters in 2005.
The loss ends a brilliant run in the California desert by Kasatkina, who was playing in her second final in a row after a runner-up finish in Dubai.
“She was much better today than me, so she really deserved to win,” Kasatkina said. “Of course, we were both nervous at the beginning, because the 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 during the match. So it is what it is.”
Kasatkina was two points from defeat against Venus Williams in the semi-finals but rallied for the upset triumph.
Kasatkina, who wasn’t even born when Williams first competed at Indian Wells, said she really felt the nerves getting to her on the big stage in the final.
She called her coach to come down from the stands for advice at one point but couldn’t remember after the match what he told her.
“I mean, I already forgot what he told me. I was so nervous, that I really forgot,” she said.
Osaka blasted five aces, made three double faults and won 79 percent of her first-serve points.
“I wasn’t really trying to hit hard today,” said Osaka, who was born in Osaka, Japan, but is a dual citizen after living in America since the age of three.
“I felt like it would be better for her to take my pace.
“So I wanted her to do whatever she wanted to do and I was going to sit back and see what she does.”
Like Osaka, Kasatkina was playing in her first Indian Wells final. This was the first time both Indian Wells finalists were under age 21 since Serena Williams beat Clijsters in 2001.
The opening set was even until Osaka blasted two aces to take a 4-3 lead. She then broke Kasatkina to make it 5-3 and finished it off with another strong service game.
Osaka pounced on Kasatkina from the beginning of the second set, starting with an opening break of serve.
She also broke Kasatkina to go up 4-1 with another precision forehand winner down the line and never looked back.
Kasatkina is now 1-3 in WTA singles finals, winning in Charleston last year and finishing runner-up last year in Moscow and this year at Dubai.