Naomi Osaka produced an extraordinary comeback from match point down in the decider to stun Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-4 7-5 and book her quarter-final place at the 2021 Australian Open.
The Japanese player, 23, looked to be heading out of the tournament at 3-5 and 15-40 in the third set. But she summoned her best tennis when she needed it most to turn the contest around.
“I was a bit intimidated because I knew she was playing really coming into this match,” Osaka said in her on-court interview. “In the stressful points I had to go within myself. I know I probably hit a lot of unforced errors, but it was something I needed to do because I couldn’t really give her any short balls because she would finish it.”
Although Muguruza did not do a lot wrong, this was still a big opportunity that passed her by. She was in excellent form and she would have had a great chance to win her first Grand Slam title since 2017 if she had beaten the World No.3, who was one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Muguruza seizes the initiative
Osaka started the match superbly. She hit a couple of aces and a series of fierce groundstrokes to open up a 2-0 lead. However, she double faulted at 30-30 in game three and Muguruza pounced to break back and then held to make it 2-2.
The next four games only took about 10 minutes as both players settled into a good rhythm on serve and moved the score along to 4-4.
Muguruza put Osaka under pressure immediately in game nine with a crisp forehand winner. And the Japanese player faltered. She made three unforced errors to hand the Spaniard a break at a critical time.
Muguruza made sure she did not give Osaka a way back into the set. She served well and drew a couple of errors from her opponent’s racket as she held to clinch the opener 6-4.
Osaka hits back
Muguruza maintained her momentum early in the second set. She hit a classy forehand winner and a precise lob to gain an immediate break. She then held to love to make it 2-0.
Osaka stopped the rot in style with a forehand winner and two aces during a love hold that took just 48 seconds. Then the Spaniard gave her a route back into the set by making a series of errors to surrender her serve.
The middle of the second set mirrored the first. Both players serenely held serve twice to make it 4-4 once again. The World No.3 then held again to lead 5-4.
At the end of the first set, it was Osaka who slipped up. In the last game of the second set, it was Muguruza’s turn. She made three unforced errors to provide the Japanese player with three break points, and the three-time Grand Slam champion took the third to level the match.
Osaka snatches victory from the jaws of defeat
The decider went with serve for the first four games. Then Osaka made a sloppy error and a double fault to hand Muguruza a break. She threw her racket away and looked very frustrated at the changeover.
After a gutsy hold from the Spaniard made it 4-2, both players produced some excellent tennis to hold serve and move the score along to 5-3.
It looked as if the Japanese player was about to meekly surrender when she made three consecutive errors to hand Muguruza two match points.
With her place in the Australian Open slipping away, Osaka somehow found strength within. She saved the first match point with a huge ace and drilled a forehand into the corner to force an error from the Spaniard on the second. Then she struck a forehand winner and an ace to secure the hold.
The World No.3 cranked up the pressure on Muguruza when she was serving for the match with some massive hitting. The Spaniard managed to save two break points, but Osaka hit two consecutive winners to seize it and level the score at 5-5.
By this stage, Muguruza was starting to look forlorn as she wondered whether her chance had gone. She played two excellent points in game eleven but the Japanese player held comfortably.
Any fighting spirit within the Spaniard seemed to leave her in the next game. She made three unforced errors and dropped her serve to love. And just like that, her Melbourne dream was over.
Hsieh awaits Osaka in last eight
Osaka, meanwhile, must now prepare for a quarter-final with one of this year’s surprise packages, Su-Wei Hsieh. The inventive 35-year-old from Chinese Taipei thrashed 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 6-2. And the Japanese star is very familiar with her game after five previous meetings.
“I’m not really looking forward to it,” Osaka admitted. “She’s going to be really tough. Every time I played her it was three sets and really long.”
She continued, “All the people she’s played are super-difficult. And I feel like when I play her, I just have to expect everything.”
Coco Gauff reaches Rome Semi-Finals after Barty retires
Coco Gauff is into her first WTA1000 semi-final after Ash Barty retired during their match.
The 17 year old American was down a set and 2-1 when the world number one decided to call it.
Coco Gauff is into the semi finals of the BNL D’Italia open after her opponent the world number one and Aussie Ash Barty decided to pull out after leading 6-4, 2-1 with a right arm injury.
Under wet and rainy conditions the match began and you had a sense the rain was going to play a big factor in this one and it was the American who had three early chances to break in the first game of the match but the Aussie saved all three and held her opening service game.
The very next game it was Barty turn to apply pressure on the Gauff serve but the American did a good job saving the breakpoint and holding her serve before eventually breaking the Aussie serve the very next game.
The world number one responded the very next game breaking right back and that’s when the rain started to pour and the match was suspended.
Two hours later play resumed and literally after playing one game there was another slight delay for a down pour and a couple of minutes later play resumed one more time.
It stayed on serve until 5-4 with the American serving to stay in the set and it was the world number one putting more pressure and after saving four set points the Aussie would break with a stunning cross court forehand winner to take the first set.
The second set stayed on serve until 2-1 when Barty called for the trainer and after a brief discussion to everyone surprise decided to retire with a right arm injury.
Gauff now awaits the winner of the quaterfinal match between Elina Svitolina and Iga Swiatek.
Iga Swiatek Saves Two Match Points To Edge Out Krejcikova In Rome
Iga Swiatek survived a 2 hour and 50 minute clash to advance to the Rome Quarter-Finals.
Iga Swiatek saved two match points to defeat Barbora Krejcikova 3-6 7-6(5) 7-5 to reach the last eight in Rome.
The defending Roland Garros champion battled and clawed to victory in 2 hours and 52 minutes after saving two match points.
Swiatek will now play the winner of the match between Garbine Muguruza and Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
A summary of the match would be a lot of errors and tentative play throughout as the Pole was too aggressive in the opening set allowing a lot of unforced errors into her game.
Meanwhile Krejcikova was solid but was aggressive with the right angles in the right moments.
This proved crucial for the Czech Republican as she took advantage of Iga’s inability to produce first serves.
A crucial hold at 4-2 was enough for Krejcikova as there were six breaks of serve in the opening set. A long ninth game ended with the Czech taking the set 6-3.
In the second set it was more of the same with Swiatek as she was not able to produce her best tennis.
After going down an early break, Swiatek knew she had to build the points up slowly and gain her confidence. This is what occurred as she got the break back immediately and started to hold serve more comfortably.
Even though the world number 15 looked more confident with her shots and started to construct points better she could not successfully get into Krejcikova’s service games.
Towards the end of the set Swiatek saved two match points as this dramatic contest went to a second set tiebreak.
Swiatek’s mini-break lead was reduced but her fighting spirit was not as Krejcikova felt the pressure and a double fault from her gave the Pole a lifeline as she forced a deciding set.
After spending the change of ends being emotional, Swiatek regained similar form in the final set with her drop-shots being effective.
Krejcikova held nerve of her own as she continued to force the Pole to make unforced errors and just be as solid as she could be.
Swiatek saved three break points in the seventh game to lead 4-3 and then pounced in the 12th game with some heavy returns to take the match and move into the last eight.
Next for the Pole after a mammoth clash will be Garbine Muguruza or Elina Svitolina as she climbs into a new career ranking of 14 in the world.
In other results today Coco Gauff knocked out Madrid Champion Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 6-3 for one of the best wins of her career.
The vibrant American faces world number one Ash Barty who continued her amazing season with with a 6-3 6-3 win over Veronika Kudermetova.
Serena Williams’ 1000th Match Ends In Defeat To Podoroska
Serena Williams was defeated in Rome as she reaches a landmark milestone of 1000 WTA matches.
Serena Williams’ 1000th WTA tour match has ended in a 7-6(6) 7-5 defeat to Nadia Podoroska in Rome.
The American made her return to tour for the first time in 84 days as she looked to build momentum heading into Roland Garros.
If the first few games were to set the tempo of the match then it would prove to be a long contest with Serena struggling to get any free points on her serve.
It was the Argentinian who got the first break of the match in the third game as she tested Serena’s stamina early on in the contest.
In typical Serena fashion, the 23-time grand slam champion produced some stunning ground-strokes especially from central positions to break to love straight away.
On serve, Serena looked fairly comfortable as she ended the match with eight aces although she only made a first serve percentage of 48%.
That was her key downfall as it was Podoroska who looked the more comfortable on return as she used some devastating angles to force unforced errors from the Serena racket.
A break for a 5-4 lead ensured that the last year’s Roland Garros semi-finalist would serve for the opening set.
However Serena used her power and good point construction to once again break back which was met with a roar from the world number eight.
Eventually the first set would head towards a tiebreaker with Podoroska dominating the majority of it.
She had three set points which came and went as Serena used her fighting qualities to roar back into the match.
But once again some unforced errors would cost the four-time champion as Podoroska took the next two point to claim the opening set in 66 minutes.
In the second set, Serena was the early aggressor as she dictated points better setting the pace of the match.
Again though Podoroska extended the rallies and made the American move all round the court exposing as much space as possible.
The Argentinian was rewarded for her court coverage when she broke in the sixth game as Serena began to tire.
As in the first set, Podoroska couldn’t serve out the second set as her cautious play lead to Serena levelling it up at 5-5.
However Serena’s serve was just not working when she needed it too and Podoroska secured the final blow to seal a fantastic victory for her.
For Serena its onto Roland Garros as she will look to improve her fitness in the next couple of weeks.
As for Podoroska she will play Petra Martic after the Croatian beat Kristina Mladenovic today 7-5 6-3.
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