Tokyo, Japan: Naomi Osaka reeled off her 10th win in a row by defeating Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 in Tokyo on Saturday to set up a Pan Pacific Open final against Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Third seed Osaka has carried the poise and power that saw her overcome Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows final across the Pacific with her and, helped by eight double-faults from Giorgi, wrapped up the victory in just 72 minutes.
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.
Former world number one Pliskova beat Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 but took well over two hours to get the job done.
Osaka, however, made quick work of a dangerous opponent who had knocked out top seed and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, breaking twice in a one-sided first set which she took with a blistering forehand down the line.
The 20-year-old, who has climbed to seventh in the world rankings since her stunning victory over Serena Williams in New York, piled on the pressure in the second.
A brutal Osaka forehand forced a break in the fifth game, before a vicious backhand return forced Giorgi to whiff a shot beyond the baseline on match point.
“I was pretty nervous because I really wanted to get to the final,” said 2016 runner-up Osaka, who fired down nine aces in a dominant display.
“She was playing really well and I felt like I was just trying to survive. But I served really well and that got me out of a lot of trouble today.”
Fourth seed Pliskova took just 12 minutes to secure a 4-0 lead before closing out the first set with one of her 11 aces.
Vekic hit back to take the second as Pliskova’s serve imploded, the world number eight blotting her copybook with seven double-faults, many of them coming on key points.
But Pliskova snaffled an early break in the decider and hung on to reach her first Tokyo final, a forehand rocket ending her opponent’s spirited resistance.
“That was tough and I was lucky to win,” admitted Pliskova, who is chasing an 11th career title.
“I’ve never been in a final in Japan and the last one is always the toughest. But at least you know you can put everything into it. You don’t get to play a final every week so I want to enjoy it.”
Osaka will be aiming to scoop her third WTA Tour singles crown after her breakthrough at Indian Wells in March and remarkable US Open victory.
She will face world No 8 Pliskova in the final after the Czech outlasted Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in a topsy-turvy match that lasted over two hours.
Pliskova has spent more time on court than any other player at this tournament despite a first round bye and was once again dragged into a long contest by a dogged Vekic.
The former world No 1 started as if intent on finishing the contest as quickly as possible and stormed into an early 4-0 lead before wrapping up the first set in under half an hour.
Vekic, though, had defeated top 10 players Sloane Stephens and Caroline Garcia en route to the last four and recovered from an early break of serve in the second set to secure two breaks of her own.
Pliskova looked tired but dug deep in the third set and the quality of her superior hitting eventually told as she broke Vekic’s resolve.
Currently just outside the top eight qualifying places for the WTA Finals in Singapore, Pliskova has now spent 420 minutes on court in Tokyo compared to 222 minutes for Osaka.