Standing in the way of Osaka's first WTA championship at Indian Wells is another 20-year-old, Russian 20th seed Daria Kasatkina, who prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a almost three-hour semifinal battle with eighth seed Venus Williams.
Kasatkina took advantage of a sub-par serving night from the more powerful Williams as the match progressed, forcing long rallies that ultimately wore her 37-year-old opponent down over the course of the contest.
World No. 1 Simona Halep punched her ticket to the Indian Wells semifinals with a 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 win over Croatia's Petra Martic on Wednesday.
Kasatkina will now look ahead to the final and hope she still has some energy after going two hours and 48 minutes against Williams. The turning point in the third set came for Halep after she won a challenge in the eighth game with Martic holding serve. Moments earlier, Halep delivered a terrific forehand victor down the line, but she couldn't carry the momentum, slipping to deuce and ultimately losing the final two games of the set. The young Russian was undeterred, using her touch and tactical smartness to drop shot and get the break back, but Williams broke again for the set, 6-4.
Russian youngster Kasatkina was a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victor over Venus Williams.
"Maybe one of the best nights in my life, for sure". Despite a great performance so far she found it hard to close the match, offering four break points to Halep but saving them all and closing the encounter on her third match point for the place in the final.
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"I feel like there is a new generation", Osaka said, "and we're trying to push through".
"I just was not ready".
That astounding win over the Romanian was her fourth career victory over a top-10 player and her second this week after beating world number five Pliskova in the last eight.
Williams was never seriously tested by the Spaniard, who converted just one of her seven break-point opportunities en route to her fourth consecutive loss to the American. "I missed the ball a lot and I didn't play what I had to play", she said. They remained on level peggings to 5-5, but by now the oldest woman in the draw began to look tired as she battled to hold serve.
The shock victory set up a meeting with fellow 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina following the Russian's win over Venus Williams.
Williams, who was winning matches in Indian Wells before Kasatkina was even born, has enjoyed a longevity in tennis that is rarely achieved.