- Associated Press - Friday, March 16, 2018

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) - The future is now at the BNP Paribas Open.

Daria Kasatkina upset Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a nearly three-hour baseline struggle and Naomi Osaka routed top-ranked Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 in 64 minutes on Friday night to set up a final between two 20-year-olds.

“We are coming,” Kasatkina said, smiling. “Very soon.”

Kasatkina was two points from defeat, trailing 4-5 and 0-30 in the third set when Williams committed four straight errors as the Russian tied it 5-all.

Williams won just two more points as Kasatkina took the last two games to close out the match in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Kasatkina dropped her racket near the baseline and covered her face with her hands as she walked to the net.

“In one moment you just catch yourself, like, you’re in night session, all crowd, you’re playing against a legend, and you are in the third set,” Kasatkina said. “You’re just staying on the return, and you’re like, ‘Come on, maybe it’s the moment of your life.’”

It was, for both up-and-comers.

Osaka put away Halep on her third match point when the Romanian netted a backhand.

“I saw Dasha. She threw her racket, right?” Osaka said of Kasatkina’s reaction. “I was going to be, like, I’m going to be that extra. Maybe I’ll even cry a little bit just to soak it in. But I didn’t. I was just sort of more relieved that it was over.”

Ranked 44th, the Japan-born Osaka opened the tournament by beating Maria Sharapova in the first round. She defeated No. 31 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 5 Karolina Pliskova on her way to the final, dropping just one set in six matches.

“I feel like there is a new generation,” Osaka said, “and we’re trying to push through.”

Kasatkina has defeated four top-20 opponents at the same tournament for the first time in her career. She owns wins over all four current Grand Slam titleholders in the last year. A victory in Sunday’s final would move her into the top 10.

After shaking hands, Kasatkina pumped her fists and shook her head slightly as if in disbelief at beating the 37-year-old American and advancing to the biggest final of her young career.

Williams won her first four matches at Indian Wells in straight sets, including a 6-3, 6-4 victory over sister Serena in the third round. The eighth seed was trying to reach the final for the first time in seven appearances in the desert, including a 15-year absence when she and her sister boycotted the event.

Williams had 45 winners - 15 more than Kasatkina - and 63 unforced errors.

“If I don’t win, I’m not happy,” Williams said. “You don’t get used to losses, ever. Anyone who gets used to losses should give up on life.”

Williams breathed heavily during changeovers and was the last to leave her chair, while Kasatkina got up just as the umpire called time and jogged to the baseline.

Asked if she was tired, Williams said, “She just played better at the end.”

After losing the first set, Kasatkina was visited by her coach on court. Philippe Dehaes told her, “She’s 37, you’re 20. Make her work a lot.”

When she wasn’t trading shots from the baseline, a nervy Kasatkina fooled Williams with drop shots, including two that landed just over the net near the sideline. The Russian tossed up lobs over the 6-foot-1 American - some worked, some didn’t, but she remained unflappable.

There were 14 service breaks in the match.

Williams rallied from 3-1 down to win the first set. She trailed 3-1 again in the second and tied it 3-all when Kasatkina was broken on a double fault.

Kasatkina won the last four games in a row to take the second set. The players dueled through eight deuces in an epic eighth game, with the Russian turning back six break points against her. Williams pulled a forehand wide to lose the game.

Kasatkina’s coach visited her again before the third set.

“You go for it?” he asked her.

“Sure,” she replied, and they slapped hands.

Williams served a love game to go up 5-4. She led love-30 on Kasatkina’s serve in the next game before her forehand deserted her.

Williams double-faulted twice in a row to drop serve and trail 6-5. Kasatkina won on her second match point when Williams netted a backhand.

“She just played a little better at the end,” Williams said. “It was really pretty much that simple.”

Kasatkina now owns a 2-1 record against Williams, who won 10-8 in the third round at Wimbledon in 2016.

Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina defeated No. 31 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Milos Raonic beat 18th-seeded American Sam Querrey 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the men’s semifinals.


More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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