Osaka sits out as Japan lose to Spain
Naomi Osaka watched on as Japan were denied a place in the Fed Cup finals by Spain on Saturday.
After suffering a surprise defeat to world number 78 Sara Sorribes Tormo on Friday, Osaka was replaced in the singles by Kurumi Nara, ranked 127 places beneath her.
Osaka, the two-time grand slam champion, sat courtside as Carla Suarez Navarro beat Nara 6-1, 6-3 to give Spain an unassailable 3-0 lead in Cartagena before Japan won the doubles.
Japan's Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara then beat Spanish pair Lara Arruabarrena and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles.
The win secures Spain's passage to the Fed Cup finals in Budapest in April, joining already-qualified Australia, France, Czech Republic and Hungary in the 12-team tournament.
Spain are aiming to add to their five titles in the competition, which would make a perfect end for Suarez Navarro, with the 31-year-old set to retire from tennis this year.
In her last Fed Cup tie on home soil, Suarez Navarro had also beaten Misaki Doi in straight sets on Friday which, combined with Osaka's loss, put Spain 2-0 ahead coming into day two.
"We wanted to be in Budapest so much and we are there, so I'm so happy," said Suarez Navarro, whose victory was her 18th for Spain.
"It's going to be a really good event with all the best players there. Spain have a really good team and we believe we can be strong in Budapest in two months or so."
© 2020 AFP