Naomi Osaka reached the Miami Open final after beating Belinda Bencic in a comeback win on Thursday.
The four-time grand slam champion will now play incoming world No. 1 Iga Swiatek for the title in what will be Osaka’s first final since the Australian Open last year.
Osaka, who has struggled for form since her break from the sport, recovered from a set down to beat her Swiss opponent 4-6 6-3 6-4 in an entertaining semifinal.
“(I was) just battling my inner thoughts and trying to know that I must play one point at a time and adjust if I have to but try not to overwhelm myself with my thoughts,” she told reporters.
“I feel like if I was negative for a split second, I would have lost the match today.
“I have to keep pumping myself up and I haven’t played as many matches as a lot of these other players, so I just have to keep learning.”
‘You have to train your brain as much as any muscle’
At Indian Wells last month, Osaka was heckled by a spectator early in her second-round match against Veronika Kudermetova.
The spectator appeared to yell, “Naomi, you suck!” and Osaka looked shaken, going on to lose the first set 6-0 and ultimately losing the match in straight sets.
Osaka has since confirmed she started seeing a therapist to deal with her mental health after revealing she suffered bouts of depression last year.
But it seems Osaka is now finding her best tennis again and has a chance to win another title against an unfamiliar opponent.
The pair have only met once before with Osaka winning in straight sets in 2019. Swiatek, however, will be the women’s world No. 1 on Monday as she looks to continue her 16-match winning streak.
The final will be held on Saturday and Osaka is looking forward to getting back on the court.
“Man idk what’s going on but I’m just so grateful right now,” she tweeted. “Cheers to the ups and downs of life for making me appreciate this moment even more.
“We’re back in a final, see you on Saturday.”