MADRID, Spain -- World No.1 Naomi Osaka overcame a lengthy, stern fight from Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday, with the Japanese star outlasting the Spanish wild card 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-0.
"I have played [Sorribes Tormo] before and I have practiced with her once before, but it was a couple of years ago," said Osaka. "I remembered that she, of course, runs really well, and I feel like her game is quite suited for clay. So, I actually knew it was going to be a hard match. I wanted it not to be. But I knew it was going to be."
Osaka had beaten Sorribes Tormo in straight sets in their only prior encounter, on the grass of Wimbledon in 2017. But the World No.73 pushed the reigning Australian Open farther on the clay courts of her home country, before the top seed claimed a dominant final set to complete the clash after two hours and 34 minutes of play and deny Sorribes Tormo a first-ever Top 10 win.
Osaka's aggressive play steered her to the win, with 46 winners to her opponent's eight. Sorribes Tormo continued her fine play in Madrid -- she gained her only Top 20 win to date at this event last year, over Madison Keys -- but she had 17 unforced errors, doubling her winner count, while Osaka had only one more unforced error than her copious winner total.
"I feel like in the first set, I got a bit lucky there," Osaka told the press, after her victory. "And then in the second set, I just got up and then I just got a little bit unfocused. And then in the third set, I just, like, went zombie mode, and then just thought of everything that I had to do to win and -- not necessarily the outcome, but just like the little things in between every game."
— WTA (@WTA) May 7, 2019
Aliaksandra Sasnovich will be Osaka’s opponent in the round of 16. The Belarusian, who eliminated No.14 seed Anett Kontaveit in the first round, picked up another win on Tuesday, dispatching Slovakian qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 6-2, 6-2. Osaka has won both of her previous meetings with Sasnovich, including a 6-0, 6-0 victory at the US Open last year.
"I mean, the US Open was on hard," Osaka stated. "Hard is like my home. So, of course, I'll think about [the last match against Sasnovich] but for me it's completely new.
"I don't really want to think that I should win my next match because, of course, [Sasnovich is] a really great player. She has won two matches here, and I feel like we both really want to win this match and we both have something to prove, so I just think I'll just see what happens tomorrow."
A protracted first set was portended from the outset, as Osaka held a break lead twice, at 2-1 and 4-3, only to see Sorribes Tormo break back immediately both times. Osaka was alternating between the stunning power game that took her to titles at the last two Grand Slam events and unforced errors, usually long, in the altitude of the Spanish capital.
Meanwhile, the Spanish wild card was using excellent footspeed and terrific depth on her groundstrokes to extend rallies and push the World No.1 to her limit. Osaka had to come up with exceptional service prowess to survive a three-deuce game at 6-5 and get herself into an opening-set tiebreak.
An amazing jumping backhand winner put Osaka up 3-1 in the breaker, propelling her to a 5-1 lead. But Sorribes Tormo continued to grind through rallies, pulling to 5-4. Osaka did queue up a set point at 6-4, but squandered it with a double fault. However, Osaka converted her second set point, ending a rally with a forehand winner and taking the set after 71 grueling minutes.
— WTA (@WTA) May 7, 2019
Osaka had a straight-set victory nearing her sights when strong hitting put her up 2-0 in the second set, but once again, the Spaniard broke back straight away, this time at love. Osaka had chances to reclaim the break at 3-2, but Sorribes Tormo survived and held for 3-3 after the Japanese star sent forehand miscues long on both of her break points in that game.
Directly after those opportunities went begging, Osaka’s unforced errors increased dramatically in the set, and she dropped serve at love, putting the Spaniard in front for the first time. Sorribes Tormo took control of the set from there, holding with ease for 5-3, and then leveling the tilt at one set apiece after Osaka double faulted on the wild card’s first set point.
In the decider, though, the World No.1 exhibited the form that took her to last year’s US Open title and this year’s Australian Open crown. Stunning crosscourt forehands helped Osaka break Sorribes Tormo in the opening game, and the Japanese player earned an insurance break two games later after a netted forehand error by the Spaniard on the third break point of the game.
Sorribes Tormo continued to chase everything down in a valiant effort to prolong the match, but Osaka was too strong in the final set, grasping a third straight break of service with a forehand winner in the corner to reach 5-0. An ace closed out the bagel set, as Osaka keeps gathering clay-court victories in 2019.