Naomi Osaka has set up a title clash with rising star Daria Kasatkina. Photograph:( AFP )
Japanese dynamo Naomi Osaka punched her ticket to the Indian Wells final on Friday, routing world No. 1 Simona Halep to set up a title clash with rising star Daria Kasatkina.
World No. 44 Osaka stormed past the top-seeded Halep in stunning fashion with a 6-3, 6-0 win, while Russian juggernaut Kasatkina wore down the 37-year-old seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in three sets 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
The 26-year-old former champion Halep dropped to 18-2 on the season as she lasted just 64 minutes on the court with Osaka.
"I just was not ready. I missed the ball a lot and I didn't play what I had to play," Halep said. "I don't find excuses. She was better. I just was not ready and played wrong."
Youth prevailed Friday night as both unseeded Osaka and world No. 19 Kasatkina are 20 years old while the combined age of Williams and Halep is 63.
"I feel like there is a new generation and we are trying to push through," said Osaka, who clinched the contest on the third match point.
Osaka improved to 14-4 in 2018 as she came into the clash as the lowest ranked Indian Wells semi-finalist since Kim Clijsters in 2005.
"I was kind of nervous that entire (final) game because it kept going back and forth," Osaka said.
"But I'm really glad I was able to finish on my serve instead of having to break her or something like that. Yeah, it felt good."
Halep had three double faults, won just five points on her second serve and had her serve broken five times.
Halep, who had reached the semi-finals in all four of her tournaments in 2018, was trying to repeat her Indian Wells success of three years ago when she beat Jelena Jankovic to lift the trophy.
Meanwhile, Kasatkina rolled over her third top-10 player in a row to reach her first Indian Wells final.
Kasatkina rallied to claim the biggest victory of her career and defeat world number eight Williams, extending a year-long assault on top players, Grand Slam winners and former world number ones.
"A match like this, you're just speechless," Kasatkina said. "Too many emotions and you cannot explain everything.
"Maybe one of the best nights in my life, for sure."
Serving for the match, Kasatkina clinched the victory on her second match point as she raced out to a 40-0 lead. Williams hit a cross-court forehand winner on the first match point but then dumped a backhand into the net to end the two hour, 49 minute marathon showdown.
Ultimately the young Russian proved to be too strong for Williams, who appeared to hit a wall at about the two and a half hour mark.
"As my coach said, she's 37 years old, I am 20, so I should go for three sets," she said.
Kasatkina fired one ace, hit five double faults and broke Williams's serve seven times in the entertaining match.
63 unforced errors
Williams had almost double the number of unforced errors, 63-45, and broke Kasatkina six times but she also made five double faults -- some at crucial moments in the match.
"Anyone who gets used to losses should give up on life," Williams said.
Kasatkina continues her Cinderella run through the California desert tournament as she goes for her second WTA title.
Kasatkina has beaten all four reigning Grand Slam champions in the past year, including US Open champ Sloane Stephens twice. She did it for the second time at Indian Wells, winning their third round match 6-4, 6-3.
After eliminating Stephens she beat two top 10 players to get to the semis -- world number two Caroline Wozniacki in three sets in the fourth round and then No. 10 Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the quarters.