ROME -- No.7 seed Zheng Qinwen advanced to the Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarterfinals Monday for a second straight year, ending Naomi Osaka's run with a 6-2, 6-4 win in 1 hour and 24 minutes.

Last year, the Chinese player made the last eight in her tournament debut -- the second time she had reached that stage at WTA 1000 level or above. In January, she entered the Top 10 after making her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open.

Zheng had lost to Osaka 6-4, 3-6 6-1 in their only previous meeting, in the 2022 San Jose first round. However, she avenged that result with a dominant performance, featuring a run of seven straight games from 2-1 down in the first set to 2-0 up in the second.

In the quarterfinals, the 21-year-old will face either No.3 seed Coco Gauff or Paula Badosa.

Zheng rediscovers hunger and humility

In Stuttgart last month, Zheng admitted that after her run to the final in Melbourne, she had lost some of her drive, resulting in some disappointing losses. Today, though, she felt a change.

"Compare to the few round before, the matches I play before, today is the match I feel really hungry, really excited," Zheng told the press. "Before entering the match, actually I'm already hoping to play on court."

This was partly because of four-time major champion Osaka's stature in the game. But more importantly, it was an internal change Zheng had made for herself.

"After Australia, in the practice I was little bit not so focus in some stage" she said. "Then I come back with myself, overconfidence. I have some fight with the coach, some fight with my team. But after couple loss, I start to say, 'Well, maybe time to change my mentality again because the things not going my way. There's something I'm thinking wrong or doing wrong.'

"Right now, I just come back to my normal level. If you want to win a match, you need to be balance, be humble 'cause when you are overconfidence, the things are really not doing well."

Zheng's 'normal level' showed in the improvements to her game

Zheng said that comparing her previous encounter with Osaka meant little. She was a rookie then, and it was on a different surface. But her improvements since then particularly showed up on serve and return.

She was broken in her first service game of the match. That was the last time she was seriously pressured on serve: Zheng did not face another break point for the rest of the contest. About as tough as it got was a 0-30 hole when leading 4-3 in the second set. That was swiftly erased by a handful of big serves.

Conversely, Osaka struggled to find her dominance on serve. She landed just 27% of her first deliveries in the first set. Even when that number improved to 70% in the second set, she still couldn't match Zheng's efficiency. Osaka won 15 out of 21 points behind it in the second set -- but Zheng was even more formidable, taking 12 out of the 14 points when she landed her first delivery.

"I think for me, if I was frustrated, it was more from myself. I don't know. I feel like I expected a lot from her, and it made me very overwhelmed with my own game," Osaka said after the match. "I don't really know how to articulate that properly."

For Zheng, she was happy with her performance.

"If you really want to compare [to their previous match], I want to say maybe the return [was most improved]," she said. "I'm able to return her serve today. I try to make her play as more as I can compare to the last time. I remember last time the match went in third set. In the third set I lose my service game really fast. But today what I'm doing good is when I lost my service game in the first set, I'm able to come back and trying to find a way to break her back again."