The Naomi Osaka – Victoria Azarenka second round encounter lived up to the hype Thursday at the French Open. The two multi-Slam winners played arguably the best match of the women’s event with Osaka coming away with a tough 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Azarenka stormed out in front 4-0. She held on for the set then went up 4-2 in the second with chances for 5-2. But like in her first match, Osaka would fight back.
The World No. 1 took five of the next six games to force the decider. After a lengthy break, Osaka kept the momentum in the third and hung on for her 16th straight Slam win.
“I think this match was equal parts mental and physical. Maybe more mental,” Osaka said. “The first set was, I got rolled. I made a little bit of a comeback in the end of the first set, but technically, she kind of killed me in the first set, and I just kept trying to find a way to stay positive.”
Azarenka came oh so close to pulling off the big upset.
“I really played the right spots. I was playing aggressive. I was doing everything that I was supposed to do, and especially moving well and pushing her back,” Azarenka said.
“I believe I didn’t take some of my chances where I had, but I felt that the margin of opportunity was very little for both of us today. I didn’t push enough through, which is something that I need to learn from.”
Osaka will now Katerina Siniakova who outlasted Maria Sakkari in a marathon 3-setter.
Defending champion Simona Halep was pushed again, this time by Magda Linette before prevailing 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
Serena Williams looked better in a good win over qualifier Karumi Nara 6-3, 6-2.
“I think she was playing tennis the whole time, really good tennis the whole time,” Serena said. “She was just playing really tactical tennis, and I just had to play a little bit better.”
Several seeds did go down at Anna Blinkova ousted French No. 1 and 24 seed Caroline Garcia, former Top 10 Andrea Petkovic sent home Su-Wei Hsieh, Monica Puig dashed Daria Kasatkina, Iga Swiatek celebrated her 18th birthday a day early upsetting Qiang Wang and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova beat-up on Aryna Sabalenka for the second straight Slam.
2018 semifinalist Madison Keys was deadlocked a set apiece with Australian Priscilla Hon before play was called due to darkness. Aleksandra Krunic failed to serve out the match at 6-5 against Lesia Tsurenko, now they, too, will return tomorrow at 6-all.
As the third round begins on Friday, former champion Garbine Muguruza meets Elina Svitolina. Karolina Pliskova faces Petra Martic and 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens returns.
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