Tennis: Osaka into 1st Miami Open final after edging Bencic

Japan's Naomi Osaka reached her first Miami Open final on Thursday after overcoming Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Four-time grand-slam champion Osaka, currently 77th in the WTA rankings, dropped her first set of the tournament but bounced back to beat her 28th-ranked rival for the second time in five attempts.

It marked a special occasion for the 24-year-old Osaka, who used to train in the southern Florida city and was cheered on by a supportive "home" crowd that included her mother Tamaki.

"I just wanted to thank everyone, the atmosphere was really good," said a tearful Osaka after the semifinal. "This tournament really means a lot to me and it's my first time in the finals here so I'm really thankful."

Good service returns from Bencic stifled Osaka in the first set, the Swiss amassing points off Osaka's second serves to get the upper hand.

But the Japanese saved five of six break points in the second set and hit six aces to tie the match at a set apiece, with Bencic dropping her first set of the tournament.

Osaka's powerful first serves tipped the match in her favor in the decider as she broke first to lead 3-2 in the final set and racked up eight aces in total to edge the 25-year-old Swiss.

"Honestly I don't really feel like I figured her out at all, I hit a couple of really good serves and she just took winners on them," Osaka said of Bencic.

"I felt like all I could do was keep fighting for every point and somehow I managed to win, so she's a really amazing player, I wished I had her return."

Osaka will take on Poland's world No. 2 Iga Swiatek in Saturday's final, the Japanese player's first tournament decider since she won the Australian Open last year.

Swiatek beat American Jessica Pegula in straight sets to reach the final. Osaka topped Swiatek in straight sets in their only previous meeting, in Toronto in 2019.

© Kyodo News