MELBOURNE, Australia - Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka is back into the semifinals of a Grand Slam after taking down No.6 seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets at the Australian Open.
Osaka sealed her 12th consecutive Grand Slam win in dominating style, winning 6-4, 6-1 against the WTA Finals champion in just an hour and 10 minutes. She rained down eight aces and 31 winners en route to breaking the Ukrainian five times.
“It feels really good [to be in another Grand Slam semifinal],” Osaka told press after the match. “This is something that I have been working on a lot, which is, like, trying to get deeper in tournaments more consistently. I think I have been able to do that.
“For me right now I just try to keep looking forward. So I'm not really satisfied. I am happy
that I'm here, but at the same time, I want to keep going. There is more matches to win.”
Osaka, who is seeking to become just the tenth player ever to pull off a New York-Melbourne double, and the first to do so since Serena in 2015, coasted in the second set but got off to a gueling start against Svitolina.
The Ukrainian was hoping to reach her first major semifinal after falling at the quarterfinal stage in three previous attempts, and on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday she matched Osaka blow for blow in the first set.
The first five games went comfortably to the server as Osaka’s pure attacking matched up against Svitolina’s relentless counterpunching. But leading 3-2, the Japanese player finally struck first to earn the break a game later as she took advantage of Svitolina’s vulnerable second serve.
Svitolina showed her grit to break straight back, and the pair wrestled for the momentum during the five consecutive breaks that followed. But she couldn’t manage to hold her serve as Osaka continued to pummel the returns, and the Japanese player powered to a first set.
From there, it was one-way traffic for Osaka as Svitolina’s normally-solid game started to break down. Osaka reeled off five games in a row before the Ukrainian got on the scoreboard at 5-1, and then served out the match with ease to seal her spot into the Melbourne semifinals.
“I played against her maybe four or five times already, so I knew what to expect,” Svitolina said of Osaka’s game. “When I cannot do 100%... she's a top player, and when you give her this chance, obviously she gonna take it. All the top players are gonna take it.
“It's very disappointing that I couldn't do it today, and I couldn't give extra today to match her level. So that's why, you know, she did well today.”
Osaka said, “Playing against Elina is very tough, because she sort of takes your peace. And sometimes if I hit hard, she just takes that and hits it right back at me.”
The win marks a major milestone for Japanese tennis in Melbourne, with Osaka becoming the first player from her country to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open since Kimiko Date in 1994.
And with the win today, Osaka also moves into pole position to claim the WTA World No.1 ranking and dethrone Simona Halep at the end of the fortnight. After Petra Kvitova’s win over Ashleigh Barty last night, a new No.1 was guaranteed and, while it’s still up in the air, Osaka now leads the points race heading into the semifinals.
Up next, Osaka will take on either No.16 seed Serena Williams in a rematch of the 2018 US Open final, or No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the final.