TennisOsaka slices through Hsieh, books semis spot
─── 16:12 Tue, 16 Feb 2021
Naomi Osaka is swinging with the freedom a great escape affords and the omens are mounting following a comfortable Australian Open quarterfinal defeat of dangerous Su-Wei Hsieh on Tuesday.
In a flawless showing from the Japanese third seed, she clobbered 24 winners and lost only two points on her first serve in a 6-2 6-2 victory – her 19th straight, dating back to February last year.
It was the first time two women of different Asian nationalities had reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal and this shaped as one of Osaka’s trickiest obstacles to a fourth major.
“(I'm) definitely really happy with how I played today. Every time I play her it’s always such a battle,” Osaka said. “Even though the score was like this, it was actually another battle for me. She’s able to hit winners off both sides. You never know when she’s about to go for it. “
Osaka led their head-to-head count 4-1. However, all but one of their meetings had gone the distance, including their third-round meeting at AO2019, a match in which Osaka rebound from a set and 4-1 down to triumph.
In a solid opening set on Rod Laver Arena, Osaka made the more disciplined start as she broke Hsieh a second time to take it when the 35-year-old pushed wide.
The 23-year-old had not lost a point on her first serve until 6-2 3-1 and was at her devastating best from the baseline when she rolled a forehand crosscourt in a 15-shot rally to surge to 5-2.
While Hsieh – the oldest first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist in the Open Era – had a knack for the unexpected, it was Osaka who gave her opponent a taste of her own medicine when she chased down a drop shot to flick the angled winner.
She could only laugh as she was outwitted on match point as Hsieh turned defence into offence and picked off the short ball, but a third match point completed the 68-minute outing.
She will next meet either her 2018 US Open final foe, Serena Williams, or No.2 seed Simona Halep.
“I know my next opponent is Serena or Halep. I normally watch Serena’s matches anyway, but everyone’s told me about my draw here so I kind of had no choice but to know who my next opponent is,” Osaka said. “But definitely it’s going to be a heap of fun.”
There would be no great escape required against Hsieh as there was when they met at Melbourne Park two years ago.
No repeat either of the heart-in-mouth match-point saving feats against Garbine Muguruza from two days ago.
“I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but I’d say it makes me a bit more calm,” Osaka said of her Muguruza comeback.
“Even though my back was severely against the wall, I still had opportunities, so just knowing that even today when I had two match points and she saved them both, normally I feel like I would have panicked, but today I was pretty calm.”
If it was an omen for Osaka to have landed the trophy every time she had reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal, there could be another at having beaten Hsieh on her way to the trophy at AO2019.
Caroline Wozniacki was the last woman to save match points and go on to claim the Australian Open three years ago.
Osaka hopes that list of omens will only grow.