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Osaka saves two match points to beat Mugurza, will meet Hsieh in quarter-finals

Naomi Osaka overcomes Garbine Muguruza in a three-set thriller at the Australian Open on Sunday afternoon. Osaka will meet Hsieh Su-wei, who was the first player into the quarter-finals after she defeated Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets.

Naomi Osaka_2021_AO Naomi Osaka_2021_AO

It’s safe to say that Naomi Osaka vs. Garbine Mugurza lived up to the hype.

Osaka saved two match points in one of the blockbuster fourth-round matchups on the women’s side, eventually prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday afternoon. The world No 3 from Japan battled back from a set down and from 5-3 down in the final set to advance in one hour and 55 minutes.

Double-match point missed by Muguruza

It was Muguruza who played with a lead most of the way. The No 14 seed erased an early deficit in the first set with an immediate break back and then took control by breaking Osaka again at 4-4. After serving out the opener, Muguruza seized a stranglehold on the match by breaking to begin the second.

Although the Spaniard was broken back twice to lose the second, she once again started fast in the third. A scalp of the Osaka serve at 2-2 ultimately put Muguruza on the brink of victory in the ninth game. At 3-5, Osaka faced two match points down 14-50 but saved the first with an ace and fought off the second by forcing her opponent into a forehand error at the end of a hard-hitting rally.

That proved to be the final turning point of the battle. Osaka held serve two points later, converted her third break chance in the next game to make it 5-5, held serve without too much trouble for 6-5, and then broke Muguruza at love to clinch the win.

“I’m not really sure, to be honest,” Osaka said when asked how she got through the match. “I think I was just trying to fight for every point, then it sort of led me to win. I don’t know.

I don’t remember (my mentality down match point) exactly, but on the first match point I was just thinking that I didn’t hit a decent serve that entire game, so I should really focus on my serve. I feel like my serve stats were pretty good that set, so I was just telling myself to do better. Then on the second point, when the rally started, I just told myself not to push but also don’t do something crazy and make a really bad unforced error.”

Osaka’s clutch play stole the match from Muguruza, but the 2020 Aussie Open runner-up could exit with her head held high.

“Overall I think it was a pretty good match,” offered Muguruza, stating the obvious. “We had a lot of great points. I felt, of course, a little bit disappointed being 5-3 in the third set up, having match points. Is never a good feeling losing a match that you feel you could have change in one second. But I left the court with a good feeling — very good feeling of this tournament in general.”

Hsieh says hey to first slam quarter-final

Hsieh Su-wei used her typically eclectic style of play to slice and dice her way into the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career as she ousted No 19 seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 6-2 during fourth-round action on Sunday. Hsieh ran Vondrousova ragged, and with the Czech already dealing with an apparent leg injury she had little chance of withstanding Hsieh’s brilliant display.

Hsieh needed only one hour and eight minutes to advance.
WTA - Hiroshima : Hsieh passe en trois sets

The 35-year-old, who is ranked No 1 in the world in doubles, has never done this well in singles at any slam. However, she surely took confidence from her performance in the first three rounds in addition to a three-set victory over Vondrousova last month in Abu Dhabi. Hsieh’s confidence only grew when she broke serve in the opening game of Friday’s match. The veteran from Chinese Taipei consolidated her advantage to 5-2 before getting broken for the only time all day. That service donation hardly mattered, though, because she held at 5-4 to wrap up the opening set.

A disgruntled Vondrousova had no chance of getting back into the match. The 2019 Roland-Garros runner-up lost each of her first two service games in the second set, all but ending her quarter-final hopes. From there Hsieh dominated with no trouble of any kind.

“It’s quite exciting,” Hsieh said of being in a slam quarter-final for the first time. “But during the match when I just winning, I was [feeling like it was] not real because there was no fans there…. So I will be back next year!”

For now, though, the world No 71 still has this year to think about. She will go up against Osaka on Tuesday.

“I’m not looking forward to it,” Osaka joked on court following her victory over Muguruza.

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