Naomi Osaka’s bid for a gold medal in her home country came to an end quickly Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympics.
Osaka, the World No.2, fell to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round. Osaka was competing in her first event since pulling out of Roland Garros in May.
"I've taken long breaks before, and I've managed to do well," Osaka said afterward. "I'm not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher.
"I feel like my attitude wasn't that great because I don't really know how to cope with that pressure, so that's the best that I could have done in this situation."
The top three seeds, Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Osaka, have all fallen early at this year’s Games. No.4 Elina Svitolina, a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 winner over No.14 Maria Sakkari on Tuesday, is the highest-seeded player remaining in the tournament.
Born in Osaka, Japan, Osaka became the first tennis player to light the Olympic cauldron, an honor she called, “Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”
After falling to Vondrousova, Osaka said the understood the pressure at these Games.
"I think it's maybe because I haven't played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much,” she said. “I think I'm glad with how I played, with taking that break that I had."
Vondrousova, the 2019 Roland Garros finalist, told the ITF that “I think this is one of the biggest [wins of my career], for sure.
"I think Naomi, she is the greatest now, the greatest in the game, and she’s also the face of the Olympics."
Belinda Bencic, the No.9 seed, cooled off No.8 Barbora Krejcikova 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. It was only the second loss for the Czech Republic’s Krejcikova in her past 24 matches.
Because of rain, the matches on the outside courts at Ariake Tennis Park began an hour late, just after 12 p.m. local time. After they got in four games, there was another interruption. Krejcikova was up 3-1 at the time, thanks to a break of Bencic’s serve when she double-faulted.
When they returned, Krejcikova reeled off three straight games for the set. Bencic, however, made things complicated for Krejcikova by winning the second set and extending the match.
With Krejcikova serving at 3-4 in the third, Bencic forced a critical break and served out the match. When her backhand down the line fell in for a winner, Bencic screamed and shook her fist in the direction of her coaches.
Matches played: 3— ITF (@ITFTennis) July 27, 2021
Games conceded: 7@NastiaPav set a record for the fewest games dropped into the last eight of the women’s singles since #Olympics tennis returned as a full-medal sport in 1988 😳#Tennis | #Tokyo2020
Bencic’s opponent in the quarterfinals is another streaking player, No.13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1, 6-3.
The 30-year-old Russian is enjoying a renaissance this summer after reaching her first career major final, at the French Open. That helped lift her current ranking to No.18 – not far from her career-best No.13 – achieved a decade ago. She’s won 15 of her past 19 matches.
Pavlyuchenkova displayed a well-rounded game, creating 17 break-point opportunities, and converting five. She hit 15 forehand winners and 10 backhand winners. She also won 19 of 26 points (73 percent) at the net.
Camila Giorgi also pulled off an upset. The Italian took care of No.5 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2. Giorgi had lost five of their previous seven meetings, but Tuesday she needed just 75 minutes to knock off this year's Wimbledon runner-up.
Giorgi converted all four of her break points, while dropping serve only once, winning 85 percent of her first service points in total.
Garbiñe Muguruza, the No.7 seed, avoided the string of upsets with a 6-4, 6-1 win against Alison van Uytvanck. Spain's Muguruza has yet to drop a set in the event. It was Muguruza’s fourth win in five tries against the Belgian.
Muguruza won 43 of 54 first-serve points (80 percent) – and all 11 of her second serve points.
Paula Badosa made it two Spaniards in the quarterfinals by eliminating Argentina's Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 24 minutes.
Badosa improved her record to 29-10 in 2021. This year she has reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals and the round of 16 at Wimbledon. Badosa also won her first WTA singles title in Belgrade.
No.15 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan completed the quarterfinal lineup. She won the nightcap match against Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6(3), 6-4.
After winning the first set in the tiebreaker, Rybakina fell behind an early break in the second set. She came back, earning the crucial break at 4-4 after a Vekic miscue wide on break point. Rybakina then served out the match at love to reach the elite eight.
2020 Tokyo Quarterfinal Matchups:
(13) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (ROC) vs. (9) Belinda Bencic (SUI)
(15) Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs. (7) Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
Camila Giorgi (ITA) vs. (4) Elina Svitolina (UKR)
Paula Badosa (ESP) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)