Naomi Osaka’s US Open title defense crashed and burned in spectacular fashion Friday night at the US Open.
Facing 18-year-old teen Leylah Fernandez, the rusty Osaka wasn’t up to par but when it counted at 5-all in both sets she found the mark. But after getting the break, Osaka served for the match in the second at 6-5. But her game fell apart and in the ensuing breaker the 2-time US Open champion twice slammed her racquet on the court as the speedy lefty lifted her game and the crowd.
Osaka would leave the court but it didn’t help. She returned only to get broken right away and the global star just could recover.
The Canadian showed her poise and served out the biggest win of her career and scored the biggest upset thus far of the women’s event with a 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over the third-seeded Osaka.
“It was a great match,” Fernandez said. “I was very happy how I played in the first set. I was serving well. I was playing well. She just edged up near the end. In the break I was telling myself to stay positive, keep fighting. I’m there, I’m close.
“In the second set I guess on the very last game I found the solution to the problem of returning her serve. I’m glad that I found it. From then on I was just fighting, using the crowd’s energy, putting the ball back in as much as I can, just be offensive and go for my shots.”
Osaka has won her last 15 matches at hard court Grand Slam events.
“I thought, hmm, I didn’t play that well. Like I didn’t move that well at all. It’s kind of to be expected sometimes,” said Osaka.
Osaka has now lost her last three matches to lefties and she’s just 9-6 since her Australian Open title.
“I honestly didn’t really find it that troubling like when we were in the groundstrokes,” she went on. “But I can’t even tell you how it feels to return it because I don’t think I could have returned a ball against a righty today either. I’m pretty sure my return stats were really horrendous.
“It wasn’t like she was serving bombs, so I’m not really sure what to say. But I do think her ad side serve was nice.”
She also told the press that her 2021 season might be done.
“Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said as the tears began.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
Earlier in the day, Garbine Muguruza proved too strong for fellow 2-time Slam winner Victoria Azarenka in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 meaning both 2020 finalists are out.
“Started very well. Got that first set,” Muguruza said. “Then I feel like in the second set lost my momentum a little bit. She also came up with great shots. Yeah, in the third set I managed just to be there again and go for the match a little bit. When you face these types of opponents you cannot wait, you have to go to get the win. I felt I did it.
“Happy that it’s actually first Arthur Ashe win after almost 10 years. It’s kind of funny.”
Then, in a match of former US Open champions, Angelique Kerber rallied past Sloane Stephens 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. Stephens had won her last five against the German and after first had taken 11 straight sets. Kerber, a 3-time Slam winner, kept fighting and on the brink of going down a break in the third, she won the last four games.
“It was really a tough match,” Kerber said. “Playing against Sloane it’s always a tough battle. I lost the last few matches against her, so I was ready to have really, yeah, tough fight. After the first set where she played really well, especially in important moments, I was just trying to staying in the match, being ready for every single ball.
“The third set I think at the end two, three points decide the match. I was just focusing for every single ball and taking my chances, being ready, being aggressive. I’m happy that I’m through and to being in the second week now.”
Former world No. 1 Simona Halep saved first set points in the first to defeat Elena Rybakina 7-6(11), 4-6, 6-3. Elise Mertens is next for Halep. Barbora Krejcikova also won.
In the finale on Armstrong, Aryna Sabalenka posted a great win over Danielle Collins 6-3, 6-3.
On Saturday, top seed and big tournament favorite Ash Barty returns to meet Shelby Rogers. Barty’s already defeated the American four times this year.
Maria Sakkari and Petra Kvitova open up the day on Ashe. Gold medalist Belinda Bencic, 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu and former finalist Karolina Pliskova are also in action.
You Might Like:
Osaka Battles Back On Barty For First Beijing Crown
WTA Top 3 — Osaka, Barty, Pliskova — Lead Way At Birmingham
Osaka To Face Barty For Beijing Title
Osaka Stops Andreescu’s Streak In Beijing, Barty Ousts Kvitova
Barty Out, Osaka In For US Open