CINCINNATI, OH, USA - World No.1 Naomi Osaka is through to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open for the first time after staying solid against the tricky Hsieh Su-Wei to win in straight sets, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-2.
Osaka claimed her first main draw win in Cincy in the last round against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, where she had to rally after a mid-match letdown to win in three, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2 - and book a rematch against Hsieh.
Despite owning a 3-1 head-to-head lead against Hsieh, it was a matchup that Osaka was not looking forward to. During her post-match press conference yesterday, Osaka admitted, “I never know what to expect with her. That's kind of the fun part, so I expect that I'll laugh a lot because there are things that are out of my control.
“But, yeah, the last time I played her in Miami, I just remember being frustrated. I think everyone could see that.”
But unlike her loss to Hsieh in Miami, today a smiling Osaka kept her frustration under wraps and stayed toe-to-toe with her opponent. She fired 15 aces and broke Hsieh five times to win in three sets, needing just under two and a half hours to advance.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Osaka assessed afterward. “I feel like I knew going into the match that she was going to play really well. Like, we have such long matches every time we play, so I wasn't expecting anything different this time around."
Hsieh got off to a flying start against Osaka, employing her variety and slices to earn an early break for a 2-0 lead. Osaka was right back in it a few games later, leveling the score at 2-2. The pair traded breaks again as the set reached a crucial point; Hsieh got ahead at 5-4 and served for the set, but a handful of loose errors had Osaka breaking back to love to push them into a tiebreaker. There, it was all Osaka, who reeled off six of the last seven points to take the set.
But Hsieh, who has taken Osaka to three sets in all but one of their previous matches, struck back in the second set. Hsieh continued to vex Osaka with her variety of shotmaking, and once again earned an early break, 3-1 - but once again, Osaka erased that lead, making it 3-2. They stayed toe-to-toe for the rest of the set, but this time it was Osaka who blinked first, surrendering a break to give Hsieh the set, 7-5.
In the final set, Hsieh looked to once again strike early, and created four break points in a marathon first service game for Osaka - but the World No.1 held firm to deny her, 1-1. Continuing to raise her level, Osaka reeled off the next four games in a row to build up a daunting 5-1 lead. Osaka wasted no time in closing out the match, claiming the victory after two hours and 29 minutes on Court 10.
“For me, there was a moment in the third set where I just started laughing because I felt myself getting a bit irritated,” Osaka admitted. “But then I was thinking to myself, I think I'm getting irritated because it's so hard. This match is so hard.
“And I'm, like, But this is funny to me, because I love playing hard matches. So how can I be getting irritated if it's what I want?
“It's one of those things where you think, like, this is the moment where you test yourself. This is a moment that you think is, like, the moments that you live for. Yeah, that's what I was thinking about.”
Up next, No.2 seed Osaka will face the winner between No.7 seed Elina Svitolina and Sofia Kenin for a spot in the semifinals.