Osaka advances while Barty ousts Azarenka at Miami Open

Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a ball during her women’s singles fourth round match against Elise Mertens of Belgium on Day 8 of the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú at Hard Rock Stadium on March 29, 2021 in Miami Gardens , in Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

MIAMI – Defending Australian Open and US Open champion Naomi Osaka advanced to the Miami Open quarter-finals on Monday, extending her winning streak to 23 games by beating 16th Belgian seed Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3.

The second-seeded Japanese star will then face the winner of a subsequent match between America’s 29th seed Jessica Pegula and Greece’s 23rd seed Maria Sakkari at the WTA and ATP Masters Series event.

“I started really well and for some reason got a little slow. My speed was not really the same, ”said Osaka.

“I thought it was really mental from there. In the end, he was the one who fought the hardest.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka broke out of love for a 2-0 lead and broke again for a 5-1 advantage, but Mertens broke Osaka out of love in Game 7 and denied four set points to Osaka to fit into an eighth game that lasted. almost 10 minutes.

Osaka, chasing their first crown in Miami, saved a breaking point with their third ace and ultimately finished the first set on their seventh chance with a service winner.

In the second set, Osaka needed their fifth chance in Game 3 to break Mertens, only for the Belgian to quickly come back to 2-2 and hold on to 3-2 before needing treatment for a right shoulder injury. .

Osaka won the last four games after that, breaking love in Game 7, falling in love in Game 8 and breaking up again to end things after 88 minutes when Mertens scored a forehand.

Defending highest ranked champion Ashleigh Barty advanced to the quarter-finals by beating former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.

Australian Barty has beaten five times, the last when Azarenka scored a forehand volley to end matters after an hour and 52 minutes at Hard Rock Stadium.

Barty, who had to save a match point en route to a three-set victory over Kristina Kucova in the second round, will next face seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who beat Czech 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova 6. -1, 6-2.

“I’m just excited to be in another quarterfinal of a big event,” Barty said.

“I always feel like there is still a lot of better tennis for me. I still don’t feel like I’m playing my best right now, but I’m fighting and finding ways to win which is great.

The 2019 Roland Garros winner dominated the first set but Azarenka broke it for a 2-0 lead in the second, then defended 0-40 to hold 3-0 on the way to forcing a third set, with the Australian failing by one point on his second serve in the second set.

Barty and Azarenka exchanged breaks in the second and third games of the final set. Azarenka denied Barty two break opportunities in Game 4 but the 24-year-old Queensland broke in the sixth to take the lead and again on the final point.

“The first two sets probably had some really big momentum jumps, but I think the third set was a real brawl,” Barty said.

“It was just about staying the course and over time trying to execute my game plan as best I can and trying to get it back on my racquet to where I felt I was. a little more in control in this third set.

Ukraine’s fifth seed Elina Svitolina rallied to beat Czech ninth seed Petra Kvitova 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.

“I’m really happy with the way I bounced back from being a set down,” said Svitolina. “I’m happy with the way I play and handle the pressure. I had to bring my best game to win. “

The enemy in the quarter-finals of Svitolina will be Ana Konjuh, 338th from Croatia, or Anastasija Sevastova, 57th, from Latvia.

Rublev will face Cilic

On the men’s side, Russian fourth seed Andrey Rublev beat Hungary’s 29th seed Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 6-1, to reach the fourth round.

“I have played really good tennis the last few months,” said Rublev. “We’ll see if I can continue.”

The 23-year-old, from Moscow, will face Croatian Marin Cilic, 32, the world number 45 who beat 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-4.

“Very happy,” Cilic said. “You just have to fight with these young people. I have to hold my head up for the tour veterans.

Milos Raonic, 19th from Canada, beat Frenchman Ugo Humbert, 30th, 6-4, 7-5 and faces 26th favorite of Pole Hubert Hurkacz, who sent sixth Canadian favorite Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6 ( 8/6).


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