Osaka beats Zhang in intense battle at China Open

Published by Matt Trollope

Naomi Osaka (L) shakes hands with Zhang Shuai after winning their China Open quarterfinal; Getty Images
Naomi Osaka recovered from 3-5 down in the third set to beat Zhang Shuai and advance to the semifinals of the China Open. Juan Martin del Potro and Caroline Wozniacki were dominant in their quarterfinal victories.

Staring at near certain defeat at 4-1 and 5-3 down in the deciding set, Naomi Osaka rallied to defeat local favourite Zhang Shuai to reach the China Open semifinals.

The US Open champion scorched an ace at 193km/h to seal a 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory at Beijing’s Diamond Court on Friday.

Also winning through to the semifinals were No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki – who routed qualifier Katerina Siniakova 6-2 6-2 – and men’s top seed Juan Martin del Potro, who was similarly commanding in a 6-3 6-0 win over Filip Krajinovic.

Fourth seed Fabio Fognini dismissed Marton Fucsovics 6-4 6-4 and will face Del Potro for a place in the final. Kyle Edmund, seeded No.5, beat Dusan Lajovic in straight sets to also reach the semis.

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Osaka, who next plays Anastasija Sevastova, struggled emotionally throughout the match, calling for her coach Sascha Bajin after quickly falling behind 3-0 in the opening set.

She threw her racquet, buried her head under her towel at changeovers and looked on the verge of tears on several occasions as she battled a game opponent and her own fluctuating form throughout the two-and-a-half hour contest.

“I know today it seemed like I was very aggravated, which I’m kind of sorry for,” Osaka said.

“I just kind of felt a little bit tired practicing, like warming up for the match. Then when I stepped on the court, I just felt a little bit drained.

“(When I was down in the third set) I guess I stopped thinking about winning or losing too much. I just thought that the way I’m acting right now, I’m probably going to regret it if I don’t change it.

“I just tried to think, like, one point at a time, just try to be grateful that I’m playing.”

It was a similar comeback to Aryna Sabalenka’s Houdini act on Thursday evening, showing the value of strong recent form for a player’s mentality.

Osaka has now won 14 of her past 15 matches, and was able to summon her best tennis when she needed it most in the tense final stages of an atmospheric match.

“I didn’t even notice until yesterday that I’ve never won a round here (in Beijing),” Osaka said.

“Hopefully I keep the momentum. Winning this tournament right now I think is my main goal.”

Sevastova, her next opponent, saw off fellow unseeded player Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 7-6(5).

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