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Osaka ousts Halep to set up finals clash with Kasatkina

Sunday, 18 March 2018 00:00 Published in Sports

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.

Stenson clings to share of Bay Hill lead

Sunday, 18 March 2018 00:00 Published in Sports

Sweden's Henrik Stenson birdied three consecutive holes and clung to a share of the lead Friday as Tiger Woods slipped back in the second round of the US PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Stenson, the 2016 British Open champion and 2017 Rio Olympics runner-up, fired a bogey-free three-under par 69 to stand alongside American Bryson DeChambeau on 11-under 133 after 36 holes at Bay Hill.
Woods, a 14-time major winner and eight-time champion at the Orlando course, opened and closed the front nine with bogeys but rallied late to shoot a level-par 72 and stand seven shots back on 140 after 36 holes as he works to find consistent top form ahead of next month's Masters.
Stenson, whose only victory since his lone major title came last year at Greensboro, began on the back nine and saved pars from seven feet at the par-five 16th and 15 feet at the par-three 17th after finding bunkers off the tee.
He also sank a nervy five-footer for par at 18 after blasting out of a greenside bunker.
"Today wasn't as good as yesterday obviously but the important part for me was 16, 17 and 18," Stenson said. "I scrambled for par on all three after hitting some not-so-good golf shots, kept patient and made three in a row coming home. Three in a row on this golf course is not bad."
Stenson sank four-foot birdie putts at the par-four fifth and par-five sixth holes then dropped a 20-footer at the par-three seventh.
"My putting more than anything. I've been hitting it really close this week," Stenson said of his key to success. "If you're rolling it really good you're setting up something from three to four feet."
Staying below the hole on most greens has been pivotal, Stenson said.
"They are definitely slick when you approach on the high side and that's why you have to leave your approaches on the lower side," Stenson said.
Woods, again attempting to return in the wake of four back operations, stumbled at the start. His tee shot found the left rough and led to a bogey. At nine, Woods had a three-putt bogey from 61 feet.

Clanton seizes lead at LPGA Founders Cup

Sunday, 18 March 2018 00:00 Published in Sports

Cydney Clanton holed out for eagle from the fairway at 13 and rolled in a birdie at the last to seize the second-round lead at the LPGA Founders Cup in Arizona on Friday.
Clanton shook off an early bogey and fired four birdies along with her eagle in a five-under par 67.
"I played really good and made some clutch putts coming in," Clanton said. "The hole out was pretty special, any time you don’t have to putt is nice."
Her nine-under par total of 135 put her one stroke in front of a quartet of players that included overnight co-leader Karine Icher of France, Colombia's Mariajo Uribe, Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn and American Marina Alex.
Clanton, seeking her first win on the LPGA Tour, was even through the first nine holes with one bogey and one birdie.
After a birdie at the par-five 11th, she posted an eagle two at the par-four 13th, where her wedge into the green took one bounce and found the cup. She added another birdie at 15 and took sole possession of the lead with her birdie at the last.
"It has been a while since I've been in the lead, so (on Saturday I'm) just going to take it one shot at a time, one hole at a time," Clanton said.
Clanton, a rookie in 2012, has four career top 10 finishes, but no wins.
Icher, who shared the first-round lead with South Korea's Chella Choi, had four birdies and a bogey in her three-under 69. Alex climbed the leaderboard with a bogey-free six-under 66 while Uribe and Ariya both posted 68s.
"I actually didn't hit it that well today, maybe I had some luck," Ariya said. "I still had so much fun out there and I’m working on my commitment."
It was a further stroke back to Americans Mo Martin and Jessica Korda on 137.
On a day when more benign conditions led to lower scores, Choi was unable to build on her first-round 67, her even-par 72 leaving her tied for 13th, four shots off the lead.
Former world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand endured another tough day, following up her first-round 74 with a one-over 73 that left her well outside the projected cut line of one-under par.






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