WASHINGTON, D.C., USA -- The last remaining Top 4 seed is out at the Citi Open, as Magda Linette of Poland stunned No.3 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan in a rain-affected second-round match on Thursday night, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, to advance to the quarterfinals in Washington.
"I’m very happy, because it was really tough," Linette told the media, after her victory. "I knew that at some point she [will] come back, and I just wanted to keep playing aggressive. And even though I missed some in the second set, I just tried to stay aggressive, and somehow I came back."
In the first meeting between the two players, Linette surged from a break down in the final set to claim the final four games of the match -- including the last 13 points in a row -- and edge the World No.17 in a protracted two hours and five minutes, completing the quarterfinal lineup.
World No.62 Linette, coming off a semifinal showing in Nanchang last week, won 74 percent of points on her first serve, and took 56 percent of points on Osaka's second delivery. Osaka's vaunted serve was not at full capacity on the day: the Indian Wells champion had only two aces, compared to four double faults.
Linette's Nanchang run has left her unfazed by the persistent rain delays in Washington. "It’s crazy, but I’m already messed up after China, because I’ve been playing so late there every day," she explained. "I came really with no expectations, and it’s actually quite good that it’s so messed up, because I don’t get too much time to get stressed or anything! I just try to take it as ‘it is what it is,’ and just keep going."
In the quarterfinal round, Linette will take on another seeded player, No.7 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia. Vekic survived an extremely close encounter against Fanny Stollar of Hungary, with the Croatian prevailing 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(13), closing out the epic final-set tiebreak at the end of two hours and 23 minutes of play.
"I’ve played [Vekic] in practice a couple of times, and she’s an extremely competitive player," Linette said. "I expect a really tough match tomorrow, and I just hope I can play as good as today."
Osaka had an inauspicious start to the match, as she fended off four break points in her opening service game, but not the fifth, as the Japanese player dropped serve to start the match. Osaka broke Linette back in the next game, but the third seed lost serve for the second time in a row, handing Linette a 2-1 lead with a double fault on break point.
Linette quickly took command of the set from there, going down the line for winners when she could and taking advantage of an error-prone Osaka. Linette broke Osaka again for a 4-1 lead, and even though Osaka finally held serve for the first time in four tries at 5-1, one game later, Linette held to take a one-set lead.
There was an approximately 15-minute rain delay between the first and second sets, and when play resumed, both combatants held with relative ease up to 3-3. But midway through the second set, Osaka began to find the range on her powerful groundstrokes, serving out a tough hold for 4-3 with a backhand winner down the line.
In the next game, the Japanese star obtained the crucial break of the set, garnering a second break point of the game with a service return winner, and taking the 5-3 lead after Linette netted a forehand. Osaka needed three set points in the next game, but ultimately prevailed in the second set by using a deep backhand to force an error from the Polish player.
It surely appeared that Osaka was ready to take control of the match at the start of the decider, erasing a break point to hold for 2-2, then claiming the first break of the final set at 3-2, when Linette fired a backhand long while down break point.
But Linette had other ideas, maneuvering through a long game to immediately break back for 3-3 on her third break point of the game. In the next game, Osaka cracked a forehand winner down the line to reach triple break point, but thanks to a handful of stunning serves out wide, Linette reeled off five points in a row to obtain a massive hold for a 4-3 lead.
With that opportunity lost to the wind, Osaka faltered terribly in the next game, dropping serve at love after a clutch of unforced errors, and tossing her racquet in disgust when that game ended. In the next game, the steely Linette used another wide serve to set up triple match point, and after Osaka pushed a backhand into the net on the first chance, Linette had added another solid win to her growing ledger.