TOKYO, Japan -- US Open champion Naomi Osaka of Japan won her ninth match in a row at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Friday, as the No.3 seed thrilled her compatriot fans with a 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over No.8 seed Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Osaka, currently ranked a career-high World No.7, needed just over an hour and a half to dispatch the World No.25 and reach the semifinals of the Premier event. The Japanese star has now won her last two matches against Strycova after dropping her first meeting with the Czech in 2015.
"I played [Strycova] three times now, and each time it’s been very difficult," Osaka said during her post-match press conference. "I think I played well in the end to be able to win."
"I think it’s almost impossible to play perfect in every match," Osaka continued. "I feel like I adjusted. I knew that I wasn’t playing that great today, but I still adjusted and I managed to win. I never know why certain things aren’t working, but I feel like it’s my job to make sure that I do the best that I can in that situation."
Osaka was asked to explain the difference between the "job" she noted today and the "business" she repeatedly referred to during her US Open run. "I think 'business' is the way you conduct yourself, like your attitude. I think a job is more of your mentality. It's confusing," she concluded with a laugh.
— WTA (@WTA) September 21, 2018
The powerful Osaka fired 26 winners during the match, including seven aces, but also matched that total with 26 unforced errors. Nevertheless, Osaka eased through the encounter by converting all three of her break points and winning 80 percent of points on her first serve.
2016 Toray Pan Pacific Open finalist Osaka moves into the final four, where she will take on Camila Giorgi of Italy, who advanced to the semifinals after former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus retired due to a GI illness during the last quarterfinal of the day.
"I’ve never played [Giorgi] before, but I have seen her matches, and I know that she’s a very difficult player to play against," said Osaka. "She’s had a lot of upsets, so I know that’s going to be a hard match. But I think I’m looking forward to it."
After a tough hold in the opening game, Osaka initially flourished, blasting a huge service return to force an error and reach break point at 2-1, and receiving the first break after a Strycova forehand went wide. Osaka slammed an ace to reach 40-15 in the following game, then crushed a forehand winner to race to a 4-1 lead.
However, Strycova did not immediately succumb to the power of Osaka, using exceptional footspeed and slices to carve her way back into the set. The defense of the Czech forced a forehand miscue from Osaka to garner a break point at 4-2, and after another forehand error by Osaka, Strycova had maneuvered her way back on serve at 4-3.
— WTA (@WTA) September 21, 2018
Just as Strycova had reclaimed a foothold in the set, however, Osaka raised her game. The Japanese player blasted winners from both wings to reach double break point, and Strycova double faulted on the first one to hand the break back to Osaka. Osaka grasped her 5-3 lead and ran with it, holding routinely to close out the opening frame.
Strycova continued to press the US Open champion in the second set, using more stellar defense to attain a break point in Osaka’s first service game. But Osaka withstood the test and fired two aces en route to a hold for 1-1.
The Czech finally faltered in the set with a shocking service game at 2-2, where she hit three double faults to send her down a break and leave her mired in frustration. Osaka took that momentum and ran with it, excelling with her serve to move to a 5-3 lead.
Strycova pushed Osaka into return errors in the subsequent game, and a quick hold by the Czech for 5-4 put the onus squarely on Osaka to serve out the match. There, the Japanese No.1 did see one match point erased by a backhand return winner, but an ace gave Osaka a second match point, and Strycova netted a return to end the clash.