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By Richard Pagliaro | @TennisNow | Tuesday, June 18, 2024

 
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Zheng Qinwen zapped 23 aces and won 44 of 50 first-serve points defeating Naomi Osaka 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in an explosive Berlin opener.

Photo credit: Robert Prange/Getty

Rivalries rev the competitive engine of top players.

Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka continues to bring out the best in Zheng Qinwen.

Zheng zapped 23 aces and won 44 of 50 first-serve points defeating Osaka 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in an explosive Berlin opener.




Facing one of the sport’s most dangerous servers, Zheng responded with an imposing serve of her own.

The Australian Open finalist fired 10 of her 23 aces in the final set where she won 17 of 19 first-serve points. Zheng was broken just once in a two hour, 10 minute win.

It is Zheng’s second win over Osaka in the last five weeks. Playing with patience and precision, Zheng raced through seven straight games dispatching Osaka 6-2, 6-4 to charge into her second straight Rome quarterfinal on red clay last month.

In the final set today, Zheng broke for a 3-1 lead in the decider. Serving for the match, Zheng kept her composure converting her fourth match point.

“It was really hard because I got four match points and she served really well,” Zheng said. “Naomi Osaka is a great player, who has a strong serve and works hard.

“This win means a lot and it's never easy to play against her. I've played against her across all different surfaces: hard, clay, and now grass court.”

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Last fall, some bad blood bubbled after a coaching change. Wim Fissette, Zheng’s coach, dropped her last fall to return to coaching Osaka. Zheng said at the time Fissette’s departure, which she called “an unethical end” left her in tears.

Rather than throwing a pity party, Zheng reunited with coach Pere Riba, who helped guide Coco Gauff to the 2023 US Open, and went back to work training in Barcelona.



World No. 8 Zheng is now 2-1 lifetime vs. Osaka.

“It's a tough opponent to have in the first round, but I'm happy that I did my best today and to get my first win in this tournament in my third year,” Zheng said. “This year I had good preparation, and I'm really happy to win my first match in Berlin because this is one of my favorite countries as well.”

Next up for Zheng is reigning Roland Garros doubles champion Katerina Siniakova in the round of 16.

Siniakova was a 6-4, 6-3 victor over American Emma Navarro.

Czech teenager Linda Noskova knocked off former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4.

The 19-year-old Noskova, who upset world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and Elina Svitolina back-to-back at the Australian Open last January, reached a round of 16 for the first time since Stuttgart last April.


 

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