Naomi Osaka ends title drought with Pan Pacific Open win

Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific title since Kimiko Date in 1995. (Jiji Press/AFP)
Updated 22 September 2019

Naomi Osaka ends title drought with Pan Pacific Open win

  • The former world number one overwhelmed Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour
  • Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific title since Kimiko Date in 1995

TOKYO: Japan’s Naomi Osaka ended an eight-month title drought by winning the Pan Pacific Open in her home city on Sunday, her first trophy since her second consecutive Grand Slam triumph at the Australian Open in January.
The former world number one overwhelmed Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour to make it third time lucky in finals at the tournament after finishing runner-up in 2016 and 2018.
The US-based star, winner of last year’s US Open, was born in Osaka and it was clearly a happy homecoming for the 21-year-old who beamed and smiled her way through a dominant week on court.
She became the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific title since Kimiko Date in 1995.
“I have played finals here. This is my third time. So, I am really glad that I was able to win, and for it to be in the city where I was born makes it really special,” Osaka said.
“I think my serves have been doing really well the last two matches,” she said.
“I think that definitely helped me out especially today since she (Pavlyuchenkova) is such a great returner,” added the big-hitting world number four who stormed through the tournament without dropping a set.
Pavlyuchenkova had no answer to Osaka’s powerful and precise serving as the Japanese won a perfect 100 percent of points when her first serve was successful and battered down four aces.
Osaka raced into a 3-0 lead early on and was rarely troubled thereafter as the Russian world number 41 was outclassed, unable to force a break point while the home crowd favorite broke Pavlyuchenkova twice in the first set and once in the second set with an array of powerful groundstrokes from both wings.
Osaka’s victory march was momentarily interrupted when her apparent match-winning ace was overruled after a Pavlyuchenkova challenge.
But it mattered not as a wide-angled Osaka backhand when the point was replayed sealed the match moments later when the Russian netted.
The victory avenged Osaka’s defeat to Pavlyuchenkova in their only prior encounter, when the Russian beat the top seed in straight sets en route to the 2017 Hong Kong Open title.


South Korea football team departs for World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang

Updated 14 October 2019

South Korea football team departs for World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang

BEIJING: South Korean footballers departed for Pyongyang on Monday to play a World Cup qualifier against North Korea amid deadlocked talks over the North’s nuclear arsenal.
The teams — with Tottenham’s star forward Son Heung-min included in the South Korean squad — are expected to face each other at the Kim Il Sung Stadium on Tuesday.
This will be the first competitive men’s game between the two sides to be held in Pyongyang, and has raised hopes for new momentum in ties between the two Koreas.
But Pyongyang refused to hold direct talks with Seoul on the logistics for the match, denying South Korean fans and journalists permission to travel with the team.
South Korean players said the absence of cheering fans will be a first.
“It’s much better to play in a packed stadium rather than an empty one, but I think we’ll be able to play a good match if we use it as motivation,” said defender Kim Min-jae before boarding a flight to Pyongyang at Beijing airport.
The South Korean footballers were accompanied by a delegation of 55 people, limited to players, coaches and staff.
Broadcasters in the South said that plans to air the match live had fallen apart, with some media reporting that there may be attempts to carry the North Korean feed.
The match comes in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests that raised tensions in the region, and after the breakdown of talks with the United States over Pyongyang’s weapons programs.