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Naomi Osaka qualifies for WTA Finals Singapore, describes US Open victory as 'bittersweet'

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 3 Oct 2018
  • Naomi Osaka has officially qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore for the first time
  • The US Open champion opened up on 'bittersweet' final: 'It wasn't necessarily the happiest memory for me'
Naomi Osaka celebrates victory in Beijing (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka has officially qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore - the US Open champion opens up on 'bittersweet' victory.

US Open winner Naomi Osaka has officially qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore after reaching the third round of the China Open in Beijing.

Osaka joins French Open champion Simona Halep and Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber as the only players to have secured their spot in the eight-woman field for the season-ending championships, which begins on Sunday 21 October.

Osaka in action in Beijing (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Next in line to qualify are Petra Kvitova, who has won five WTA Tour titles in 2018, and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane, alongside fellow Singapore contenders Karolina Pliskova, Sloane Stephens, Kiki Bertens and Aryna Sabalenka, are all still active at this week's China Open at the time of writing.

Osaka will be making her debut at the WTA Finals Singapore in 2018 after having won her maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open, and winning the Premier Mandatory BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells to boot. She also finished runner-up to Pliskova at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo two weeks ago. 

'Qualifying for the WTA Finals is a huge accomplishment. Winning the WTA Rising Stars Invitational in 2015 helped give me the confidence to play on the big stages so I am excited to go back to Singapore and compete with the top players of the season,' Osaka said after her qualification was announced. (The 20-year-old was less dignified and inhibited when she took to social media later.)

Osaka sealed her place among the elite eight when she beat Zarina Diyas in straight sets in the opening round in Beijing, but hasn't taken her foot off the gas since, beating Danielle Collins 6-1, 6-0 to reach the last 16 at the China Open.

Afterwards she revealed that her team hadn't even wanted her to know how close she was to qualifying for Singapore for fear that it would disrupt her focus on her matches. 

'It feels really good. I'm not sure if I was supposed to know, because apparently my team was keeping [Singapore] a secret,' Osaka said. 

'I think they wanted me to be motivated by it. Before someone told me I had to get to the semis here. I'm really happy, but also I'm just trying to do as well as I can here.'

A tearful Osaka is comforted by Serena Williams after the US Open final (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Osaka also opened up on the mixed emotions left by the US Open final, in which her 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Serena Williams to become a Grand Slam champion was overshadowed by controversies about officiating which are still reverberating in the aftermath, as Williams was given a code violation for coaching before subsequently being docked a point for smashing her racquet and then a game for berating umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams did her best to defuse the crowd's anger after the match, asking them to stop booing during the trophy ceremony and comforting a tearful Osaka. But the Japanese-American player confessed her feelings about the match are decidedly, and understandably, mixed.

'The memory of the US Open is a little bit bittersweet. Like right after, the day after, I really didn't want to think about it because it wasn't necessarily the happiest memory for me. I don't know. I just sort of wanted to move on at that point,' Osaka said.

Osaka had little time to reflect on what she had achieved, immediately getting sucked into a whirlwind of media appearances in New York before receiving a hero's welcome in Tokyo, where she was appearing at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, reaching the final for the second time.

'I mean, of course I'm happy that I won a Grand Slam. I don't think there's anything that can take away from that. But I don't know,' Osaka said.

'I feel like not that when I look back on it that it's a bad memory, but I feel like it was so strange, I just didn't want to think about it. I wanted to just push it to the side. Then I played Tokyo. For me, Tokyo was a way to take my mind off of it. I think that's why I did well.

'I'm still trying to take my mind off of it a little bit. I guess hopefully I can do well here, too.'

Osaka has certainly made a bright start to her campaign at the China Open, which is the last of the season's four WTA Premier Mandatory events. After a solid victory over Diyas, she dropped just one game against Danielle Collins. If she beats Julia Goerges - another Singapore hopeful - on Thursday, she could potentially face a blockbuster quarterfinal against Wimbledon champion Kerber. 

But it's safe to say that no matter the ambivalence that unavoidably attaches to the memories of winning her first Grand Slam title, Osaka can and does feel completely positive about qualifying for Singapore for the first time.

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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Naomi Osaka qualifies for WTA Finals Singapore, describes US Open victory as 'bittersweet'

US Open champion Naomi Osaka has officially qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore for the third time - the Japanese-American opened up on how her US Open victory was tarnished by controversy pver officiating during the final in New York

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