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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday October 4, 2019

 
Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka fought back from a set and a break down snapping Bianca Andreescu's 17-match win streak with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 triumph to reach the Beijing semifinals.

Photo credit: @ChinaOpen

Buzzing an ace down the middle, Naomi Osaka punctuated a brilliant Beijing comeback statement with a parting blast.

In a blockbuster clash of Grand Slam champions, Osaka battled back from a set and break down in both the second and third sets edging Bianca Andreescu 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 and advancing to the China Open semifinals.

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This first meeting between charismatic champions lived up to the hype and could be a glimpse of gripping future major matches to come.




Competing with calm grit, Osaka won five of the last six games snapping Andreescu's 17-match winning streak handing the US Open champion her first completed match loss since March 1st when she fell to Sofia Kenin in the Acapulco semifinals.

Closure was complicated: Osaka denied a break point and converted her third match point slashing her seventh ace.

"I was really nervous on the first couple and then I just tried to breathe," said Osaka, who raised her record to 37-11 in reaching her second straight Beijing semifinal. "I know she's such an amazing player.

"She's on a 17-match winning streak or something crazy. So I just told myself I have to keep fighting."

Top 10 seeds have been second-class citizens sharing the court with the 19-year-old Canadian. Andreescu carried an 8-0 record vs. Top 10 opponents into this match and put herself in position to sustain that spotless streak.

Ultimately, Osaka was a bit sharper and stronger down the stretch.

The fourth-seeded Osaka hit 31 winners—seven more than her opponentand converted six of nine break-point opportunities in a two hour, 14-minute victory.




The aggressive baseliner has a well-earned reputation as a quick-strike artist, but Osaka has shown staying power  too posting a 15-3 record in three-set matches this season.

It was a topsy-turvy match that saw the pair trade streaks and flashes of pulsating shot-making escalating into a tense third set.



Osaka won the toss, elected to serve and breezed to a 40-love lead only to see Andreescu answer.

The fifth-seeded Canadian shoveled successive slice forehands drawing a netted forehand breaking to open the match.

Though Osaka owns one of the most explosive serves in the sport and ranks fourth on the WTA in aces this season, Andreescu was punishing her second serve with whiplash returns that sometimes forced Osaka to back-pedal.




Pouncing on a tricky second serve, Andreescu hammered a twisting return forcing a netted error earning her second break for 4-1. Andreescu was striking with more clarity and command cranking her two-hander down the line capping the first love hold of the evening for 5-1.

Flawless for six games, Andreescu made miscalculations in the seventh netting a drop shot and compounding that miscue with a netted forehand as Osaka broke back. An energized Osaka was hitting deep drives but playing with more margin bursting through a seven-point surge. Osaka slammed a shutout hold for 4-5.

Serving for the set again, Andreescu hit an aggressive serve off the line only to be handcuffed b a biting return for double break point. Perhaps spooked by that return, the Canadian double faulted gifting the break back.

Facing a four-game slide with a series of sharp-angled forehands, Andreescu broke back then stepped up to serve for the set for the third time.

The third time was the charm. Andreescu slammed a love hold seizing the 46-minute opener. Andreescu won 69 percent of points played on Osaka's second serve and converted three of four break points.

Attempts to hit through the Canadian weren't working much for Osaka, who would have been wise to try to play some shorter, sharper angles.

Sniper precision on second-serve returns saw Andreescu repeatedly stretch the two-time Grand Slam champion. On her fourth break point, Andreescu prodded a lunging error breaking for 2-1.




Running rallies were favoring Andreescu. So Osaka showed point-ending power with a backhand dagger down the line for break point. An over-anxious Andreescu double-faulted a break back for the second time as the Japanese leveled after six games.

Defense helped Andreescu build a lead—and empowered Osaka take it back.

Running to her left, Osaka lifted a brilliant backhand lob that kissed the baseline. Her second backhand winner of the match sparked Osaka's second straight break for 5-3.

Flying through the second-set finish line, Osaka slashed successive aces and banged a biting serve down the T for her fifth straight game to force a final set.

Accelerating through a fierce forehand return, Andreescu spun a crosscourt backhand for triple break point. The Canadian cracked through her fifth break for a 3-1 lead in the decider only to see Osaka rip returns retaliating with a response break.

Credit Osaka for continuing to pull the trigger with guts and vigor at critical stages.

Dancing on her toes, Osaka torched a backhand winner breaking for 5-4 with a firm "come on!"




Jitters showed as Osaka double-faulted long on her first match point. On her second match point, Osaka stopped play to challenge an Andreescu return that painted the baseline.

Shaking it off, Osaka channeled her inner Marcelo Rios with a leaping backhand strike down the line for a third match point.




Sliding an ace down the middle, Osaka closed as her dad, from behind a pair of mirrored shades, threw a celebratory fist.

Osaka will try to play streak-buster again facing defending champion Caroline Wozniacki for a place in the final.

"I've never beaten her and I know she's defending champion so it's going to be hard," Osaka said.

Wozniacki saved a set point in the second set defeating Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 7-6(5) scoring her 10th consecutive Beijing win and collecting her 20th straight set at the event.

Former world No. 1 Wozniacki broke three times in a row reeling off four consecutive games to snatch a one-set lead.

Kasatkina came back winning 12 of 16 points in seizing a 3-0 lead.

The 45th-ranked Russian served for the set at 5-3 then held a set point at 6-5, but Wozniacki would not yield.

Tennis Express

The defending champion held firm to force the tie break then raced through six straight points for 6-1 lead.

A stubborn Kasatkina denied four match points before Wozniacki closed in one hour, 41 minutes.

Earlier, world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty battled back from a break down in the final set edging Petra Kvitova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Barty improved to 51-10 on the season.

It was a quality clash Barty called one of her best performances of the season.

"From my opinion, that was one of the highest-quality matches I played all year," Barty said. "Petra always has a way of bringing out the best in me, she really does."

It was Barty's second win of the season over the two-time Wimbledon winner following her triumph en route to the Miami Open title. Kvitova has won four of their six meetings.

"From both of us, I think the level was incredible," Barty said. "Regardless of winning or losing, I think I'd be sitting here with the exact same perspective, kind of the same feeling of the match afterwards."

Barty broke for the first time in the last game of the second set.

Down 0-1 in the decider, Barty broke back then cracked the left-handed Czech's serve again for 5-3. Barty converted her fourth match point advancing to her seventh semifinal of the season, including her second straight semifinal following her run to the Wuhan final four.

The reigning Roland Garros champion continues her quest for a fourth title of the season when she takes on Kiki Bertens for a place in the final.

The eighth-seeded Bertens saved four of five break points eliminating Elina Svitolina 7-6(6), 6-2.

 

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