In her first career title defense, top seed and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka fell in the fourth round at Indian Wells yesterday to the resurgent Swiss Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-1.
“She’s the No. 1 player in the world. She won everything in the past couple of months,” Bencic said. “I played I think a great match. I’m really happy with myself.
“I think I served really good. The first set was great for me, and then I just tried to keep it like that. It was a little bit more windy in the second set, but I think tactic-wise, I played very solid.”
Following Fed Cup and her Dubai title over Petra Kvitova, Bencic has now won her last 11 matches.
“Honestly, I think at a time like this with that scoreline, I would usually feel very depressed and sad,” Osaka said.
“But I feel pretty good right now, because I think, given the circumstances, I tried my best and I don’t really have any regrets. I tried to be positive throughout the entire match.
“Honestly, she was just playing so well, and she’s such an incredible player. I think there wasn’t anything that I could do in that situation, given how I was playing.”
Bencic, who just celebrated her 22nd birthday on Sunday, will now meet former semifinalist Karolina Pliskova who needed three sets to get past Anett Kontaveit 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2.
“I know her well. We are good friends also with her sister. We practiced a lot together. Obviously she has great serve and she’s playing very flat and fast,” Bencic said of Pliskova.
“I think again, I will just focus on my game, of course, a little bit tactical things, but I will think of that tomorrow. I don’t like to think so much ahead of the match. Sometimes I feel like the less I think on the court, the better it is.”
Osaka wasn’t the only former champion eliminated on Tuesday as Simona Halep also hit the exits losing to 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
The young Czech will take on Elina Svitolina tonight. The Ukraine No. 1 outlasted Ash Barty 7-6(8), 5-7, 6-4 in a grueling 3 hours, 12 minutes, the longest match thus far of the WTA season.
“Actually, it did feel pretty long, because we had long rallies and long games,” Svitolina said. “It actually felt longer than three hours and 12 minutes.
“I always trust my fitness,” Svitolina added. “I know that I can play good matches, and I’m physically strong. It’s one of my strengths, I would say. So I have just to trust it.
“You know, I was working before coming here on my fitness. So, I just had to go out there and try to stay tough and fight until the very last point, and it really helped me today.”
With a win, Barty would have cracked the Top 10 for a first time.
Seven-time Slam winner Venus Williams kept chugging along, this time dispatching Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-4. The 38-year-old will collide with another former No. 1, Angelique Kerber, tomorrow.
Keber outlasted Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 coming from 4-1 down in the third to win.
“For sure it was the toughest match of the tournament for me,” assessed Kerber. “It was an up and down match, a lot of emotions on court. I played really well in the first set, she came back really strong. The third set, I think it was just another fight and another comeback from me.
“I was trying to play every single point and still believing that I could turn around the match. I think in the end it was a fight to win the match.”
Garbine Muguruza and 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu advanced to an afternoon showdown today. The Canadian who is enjoying her breakout season is appearing in her first Premier Mandatory event.
With Halep and Osaka out, there will be a new Indian Wells women’s champion this year.
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