Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams reach quarters, Dominic Thiem slumps out of Australian Open


Melbourne: Naomi Osaka saved two match points as she battled back from the brink to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victory over in-form Garbine Muguruza on Sunday. The Japanese third seed was chasing the match from the start on Rod Laver Arena and looked defeat square in the face in the third set when the Spanish 14th seed had two opportunities to win the match with a break of serve.

Osaka saved both match points — the first with an ace — to turn the tide in the contest decisively and Muguruza exited the tournament a couple of games later after failing to win a point in her final service.

Fans remained absent from Melbourne Park for a second day because of the state of Victoria`s coronavirus lockdown and Osaka`s victory was greeted with taped applause piped into the stadium. “I`m tired right now, that was tough,” said Osaka, who mixed 40 winners with 36 unforced errors over the contest.

“Today I feel like I was intimidated, she is playing well. I had to go within myself, I couldn`t play short balls to her because she`d put them away.”

Next up for Osaka is an all-Asian quarter-final against unorthodox 35-year-old Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan, who will be playing in the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time.

“I`m not looking forward to it, every time we have played it`s three sets,” Osaka added. “It`s fun when I`m not really angry. When I play her I just have to expect everything.”

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Although Osaka had never played Muguruza before, she had perhaps a better idea of what to expect from the former French Open and Wimbledon champion. Muguruza, a finalist in Melbourne last year, had conceded only 10 games in reaching the fourth round and continued that rich vein of form into Sunday`s match.

Serving solidly and pouncing on anything short of perfect that flew off Osaka`s racket, she grabbed what looked to be a crucial break of serve for 5-3 in the third set by steering a lovely backhand winner down the line.

Muguruza rued her missed opportunity but said she was happy overall with the start to her season. “It`s never a good feeling losing a match that you feel you could have changed in one second,” the 27-year-old said. “But I left the court with a good feeling, very good feeling about this tournament in general.”

Serena into quarters after surviving Sabalenka test 

Serena Williams stormed into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday with a gritty 6-4 2-6 6-4 victory over Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. The match was a big test for Williams, who was up against one of the few players on the women`s tour capable of matching her power from behind the baseline.

“I`m happy to get through that one,” Williams said in an on-court interview. “It wasn`t easy and I knew it wasn`t going to be easy. She was teeing off on every shot. Even the games that I lost were super close, one shot here and one shot there, and I just felt like, `Serena you`ve got this, you`ve just got to keep going.`”

The players went toe-to-toe in an even first set until Williams pounced late to break Sabalenka for the first time and take a 1-0 lead. The roles were reversed at the start of the second, however, with Sabalenka breaking Williams in her first two service games.

The American, who is chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, clawed a break back but was powerless in the face of Sabalenka`s onslaught as the seventh seed broke once more for a 4-1 lead before sending the match into a decider.

“I lost the second set but the games were so close so I just tried to stay in there,” Williams added.

With the pressure ramped up in the third it was Sabalenka who blinked first, making several errors on serve to hand Williams a 3-1 lead.

The Belarusian broke back and then levelled the set at 4-4 with a hold to love but the pressure finally told with Sabalenka serving to stay in the match trailing 5-4. Sabalenka double-faulted to give Williams a 15-30 lead and netted a forehand to hand her two match points, conceding the match by sending a forehand long.

Third seed Thiem slumps out of Australian Open 

Third seed Dominic Thiem slumped out of the Australian Open in the fourth round on Sunday, comprehensively beaten 6-4 6-4 6-0 by Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Rod Laver Arena. The US Open champion, who came back from two sets down to beat Nick Kyrgios in the third round on Friday, looked out of sorts from the beginning of the contest.

The first two sets followed the same pattern with Thiem taking an early 3-1 lead only for 18th seed Dimitrov to charge back at him and clinch the set. The Austrian, losing finalist here last year, was unable to rouse himself in the third set and Dimitrov sealed a last-eight meeting with Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev after little more than two hours on court. 





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Sagar Biswas

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