World No. 1 Simona Halep was in no mood for welcoming up-and-coming stars at the Australian Open on Monday, dismantling Japanese riser Naomi Osaka 6-3, 6-2 to move into the quarterfinals.
“Maybe I get used to the pain and I’m not thinking that much that something can happen,” said Halep of the ankle she’s complained about after every win. “Just taking every point. I’m trying to play 100 percent, which I was close today, to run normal and to run a lot. But I still feel it. It’s there, but I can handle it.”
Halep’s counterpunching was too much for Osaka who sprayed 31 unforced errors to Halep’s 18. It was Osaka’s first appearance in the round of 16 at a Slam.
“I moved her,” Halep said. “I stayed there. I tried just not to miss that much. I tried also to push her back, which I did. She couldn’t dominate the game. I did, I dominated. I went to the net a lot. I finished the point when I felt that it’s time.”
In the quarters Halep will try and handle former No. 1 and No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova, who on Monday beat her Czech countrywoman and No. 20 seed Barbora Strycova 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-2 in a match ending well after midnight.
Madison Keys and Angie Kerber also set up a blockbuster quarterfinal meeting after the No. 17-seeded Keys upset No. 8 Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2, and the No. 21-seeded Kerber came from a set down to beat Su-Wei Hsieh 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Hsieh led Kerber by a set and serving at 5-5, 40-15, but that’s when the German turned the match that had been dominated by the former No. 1 doubles player in the world.
“Credit to her she played an unbelievable match,” Kerber said. “It was a very high-quality match from the first ball. I don’t know how I won, I was running everywhere and every time she had an answer. For sure we will see a lot more from her in 2018.”
Hsieh’s slice-and-dice plan almost worked, or rather her no-plan style.
“I was driving her crazy,” she said. “I didn’t have a plan. Actually, my boyfriend was looking at her game earlier this morning. I forgot to ask him how she plays, I actually had no plan to go on the court. I was trying to stay with my Su-Wei style, I like to play freestyle.”
Keys powered past Garcia, striking 32 winners to nine for the Frenchwoman. She appears 100 percent over the wrist surgery that saw her sitting out the Australian Open one year ago in a cast, and months ago reaching the US Open final but thereafter taking more time off for wrist rehabilitation.
“To have such a great two weeks and then have it end the way that it did, it was really devastating for me, so it definitely took some time to get over,” she said of her US Open runner-up effort. “I was so happy to even get there in the first place after having such a rough beginning of my season, that after telling myself that a couple of times I definitely finally moved on and just wanted to put myself in the same position again so that maybe I could have a different outcome.”
Keys has beaten Kerber in only one of their seven encounters, in 2014 in the Eastbourne grasscourt final.
Women’s quarterfinal matches scheduled for Tuesday in Melbourne are (4) Elina Svitolina vs. Elise Mertens, and (2) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Carla Suarez Navarro.
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