Naomi Osaka won her 11th straight Grand Slam match Monday at the Australian Open, coming from a set down to deny US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevasatova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Osaka just beat the tricky Sevastova 6-4 in the third a few weeks ago in Brisbane, and this match followed a similar pattern with the Latvian taking the first then Osaka coming back and holding off Sevastova.
“I think the biggest thing for me is the belief,” Osaka said. “I think I believe in myself more this year than I have last year. Like in Brisbane, I played the same sort of match, like, I lost the first set and I managed to win again. And it was against the same player. So I think just having that experience.”
Osaka, who won her maiden Slam in New York, hit 51 winners to Sevastova’s 21.
Elina Svitolina awaits after the Ukrainian beat former semifinalist Madison Keys in a mild upset 6-2, 1-6, 6-1. Svitolina advances to her second straight Australian Open quarterfinal and earns her first career victory over the American.
“So far I think I have been serving really good,” Svitolina said. “I have been returning solid. So, you know, I always try to put pressure on the opponent. That’s why I think, yeah, I’m in quarterfinal because I have been solid in all the matches. It worked really good.”
Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova won her 9th straight match pounding 2-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1. Pliskova dropped just seven total points on serve in the lopsided affair.
“I think I felt confident even coming to this match because I beat her so many times,” Pliskova said. “I like these conditions here, I’ve been playing well the last couple of matches. I had tough match the day before. So I was feeling confident about this matchup somehow today.”
In the evening, the big match of the day lived up to the billing as Serena Williams fought past a stern Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Serena rolled in a 20-minute first set but the World No. 1 began serving better and moving the 37-year-old Serena around the court. The longer rallies paid dividends for the Romanian who leveled the match.
In the third, both players elevated but in a crucial 2-3 game Serena fought off multiple break chances to hold, then broke Halep and dominated with her serve down the stretch.
“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s the No.1 player in the world and there’s a reason why. She elevates her game, she plays well, she’s just a great player,” Williams said.
“So in order for me to stay out here, I had to just play like I knew I could, and I did, and I think that was hopefully the difference.”
Halep had a laugh about the quick first set. “I felt like I had been hit by the train in the first set.”
“I didn’t get scared about the first set, because I knew I have a better level, and I can play better if I stay there and I really start moving better and hitting the ball stronger. So after the first set, I got fire inside myself, and I said that now I start the match. So it was much better.”
Pliskova is next for Serena.
“We played US Open. I didn’t play well that match, so for sure would be good revenge to play her again,” Pliskova said. “Different conditions here. I think I’m playing a little bit better than I was last year, so looking forward if she’s gonna win. I think she’s playing very solid this tournament. She didn’t lose many games yet.”
Added Serena, “She’s always someone that comes out and serves big and plays well. I’ve got to return a little bit better the next day that we play, but I will be ready. I’m ready. She’s ready, I’m ready, and let’s do it.”
On day one of the quarterfinals, two surprises meet in the afternoon with former Australian Open junior champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova collides with two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins. And both are coming off stunning wins with the Russian rallying on former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Collins crushing 2006 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber.
“I go out fearless, I’ve been working so hard my whole life,” Collins said. “I just give it my all and I don’t think twice about it. Hopefully it will be another amazing match of tennis for me.”
In the evening, Australian fans will be fully behind Grand Slam quarterfinal debutante Ashleigh Barty, but the odds will be stacked against the powerhouse Petra Kvitova who has yet to drop a set and just beat Barty in the Sydney final 10 days ago.
Kvitova has won her last nine matches and leads Barty overall 3-0.
“Win a couple more important points compared to Sydney,” Barty said of facing Kvitova. “It’s exciting that I get to have another chance at Petra straightaway. Not often does that happen where you get to kind of have a replay against the same opponent. Really exciting, but, yeah, really pumped to have another chance here.”
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