Osaka-Swiatek in Miami women’s final; Ruud, Alcaraz advance

2022 Miami Open - Day 11
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Naomi Osaka is playing her first final in more than a year, which certainly sounds like a comeback story.

She doesn’t see it that way.

The unseeded Osaka will meet second-seeded Iga Swiatek in the Miami Open women’s final. It’s a matchup pitting the world’s former No. 1-ranked player against the woman who will replace the now-retired Ash Barty atop the women’s rankings.

“A lot of people have been telling me, `You’re back’ and stuff like that,” Osaka told reporters after qualifying for the final. “But to be honest, I don’t feel like I left, if that makes sense. I have always been this player. I just didn’t play the matches.”

Osaka was No. 1 in the world before Barty took over in 2019; Osaka started this tournament ranked No. 77 in the world in large part because she simply hasn’t played as much while working on her mental health.

Barty held that No. 1 spot since, then decided to retire last week and asked to be removed from the rankings in a move that opened the door for Swiatek to ascend to the top spot.

The last time Swiatek lost a match was in February, when she was ranked No. 9 in the world. She is 16-0 since and on the brink of completing the Sunshine Double – championships at both Indian Wells and Miami.

“I am excited for sure,” Swiatek said. “But on the other hand, for me, the most important job is this is a match like any other. I don’t want to change my routines, I don’t want to change my attitude, because it’s been working out pretty well. I’m going to treat it like any other match.”

The men’s final is Sunday. No. 6 seed Casper Ruud earned the first spot in the title match by defeating Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-1 in Friday’s semifinals.

“It was a tough match, even though the scoreline said two straight sets,” said Ruud, who will be playing in a Masters 1000-level final for the first time. “It was tough.”

Ruud will face No. 14 Carlos Alcaraz in the men’s title match. Alcaraz defeated No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz – the defending Miami champion – 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) on Friday night in the last semifinal.

Alcaraz, who is a month away from turning 19, is the second-youngest Miami Open finalist ever. Rafael Nadal was about a month younger than Alcaraz is now when he made the Miami final; the tournament was called the NASDAQ-100 Open then and was played at Key Biscayne. Nadal lost a five-setter in the final that year to Roger Federer.