BRISBANE, Australia -- No.3 seed Naomi Osaka claimed a spot in the Brisbane International semifinals for the second straight year with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 over No.6 Kiki Bertems.
The two players had split their two previous contested meetings, but Friday's encounter was the first to go three sets. Scoring the decisive service breaks late in the first and third sets, it was Osaka who prevailed in a shade under two hours to claim her spot in the final four.
"I think I started off really well today as opposed to yesterday," Osaka stated in her post-match press conference. "I feel like we were both feeling each other out, though, and [Bertens] sort of adjusted better to me in the second set."
"In the third set, I just decided to stop complaining and try to fight for every point."
Over the first five games, the two players dropped a combined five points on serve, but a trio of contentious games at the end of the set defined the opener. Osaka was the first to break serve between the two in the sixth game, but it was a three-deuce battle in the eighth game that ultimately proved decisive.
The No.3 seed earned herself a trio of break points in each of these games, and denied Bertens one opportunity to level the opener at 4-4 before ultimately wrapping up the set.
However, it was the Dutchwoman who came through with the lone break of the middle set, as she eventually converted a third break point in the game to move ahead at 3-1, and never faced a break point herself to stretch the match to a decider.
The third set came down to another break in the sixth game for Osaka, as she fended off all five break points against her in the decider.
After saving four in the opening game which would've seen Bertens set the tone, Osaka erased the Dutch No.1's last chance at 4-2, and held to love to win the match.
Osaka proved to be the stronger player of the two on second serve, winning over half of her points off of that shot while taking nearly 60 percent of points from her opponent when Bertens missed her first delivery.
"I wasn't really trying to serve that hard today, because she was far back and I knew that she would probably get it," Osaka said.
"Of course, there's a downside to that, which is I don't get that many free points off my serve. She's one of the best returners on the tour, so I know my aces were nonexistent this match, but I'm not mad at how I served today."
Powerful server Bertens slammed 12 aces in the match and won a staggering 85 percent of points on her first serve, but the ninth-ranked Dutchwoman was only able to convert two of her nine break points. Osaka also earned nine break point chances, winning three.
"I know I'm playing like the best players in the world here and every round for me is really hard, so I'm just thinking about the things I can control during the match," said Osaka.
"My automatic reaction is just to like tell myself I'm doing bad and I need to do better, but most of the time I think I need to realize that the better players that I play, they will also figure things out."
With the victory, Osaka extends her winning streak to 14 consecutive matches dating back to last September.
After serving 10 or more aces in each of her first two rounds, the Japanese start tallied just four on her stat sheet for the afternoon, but nonetheless now sits just three shy of the tournament record set by Karolina Pliskova in her title run in 2017.
"I don't really think too much about like the win thing," she said, "because there was a streak last year that I was really like intent on and then when I lost it, it was just really devastating. Honestly, I'm just focused on the things that I can control right now."
Osaka awaits No.2 seed Pliskova in the quarterfinals in what will be a repeat of last year's Australian Open semifinal, which she won in three sets.