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Sunday, 09 May 2021

Tennis: Sakkari ends Osaka win streak to reach Miami semi-finals

Osaka broke in the second game of the second set and seized a 3-0 lead before Sakkari roared back to seal a semi-final spot in the prestigious ATP Masters and WTA hardcourt tournament

AFP , Thursday 1 Apr 2021
Maria Sakkari
Greece's Maria Sakkari upset Japanese second seed Naomi Osaka in a WTA Miami Open quarter-final on Wednesday, snapping the Asian star's win streak at 23 matches. AFP
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Naomi Osaka's 23-match winning streak came to a crashing halt Wednesday as Japan's world number two was stunned 6-0, 6-4 by Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals of the Miami Open.

Japan's Osaka, playing her first tournament since lifting her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, won just eight points in the first set as she failed to muster a single winner.

Osaka broke in the second game of the second set and seized a 3-0 lead before Sakkari roared back to seal a semi-final spot in the prestigious ATP Masters and WTA hardcourt tournament.

The defeat ended Osaka's chance of overtaking top-seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty atop the world rankings this week, a fact she acknowledged may have upped the pressure she was feeling against Greece's 25th-ranked Sakkari.

"It's hard to say," she said of whether that made a difference in the match.

"The last time I was in this (press conference) seat, I wasn't really thinking at all about rankings, but someone asked me that question, so then I did start to ponder about it a lot.

"So maybe unwillingly that put pressure on myself. But I feel like even if it did, I should be able to rise above that," Osaka said.

Osaka hadn't dropped a set at love since her last defeat, which came in February 2020 in a Fed Cup match.

"She has the most wins so far this year so she's in great form -- it meant a lot to me," said Sakkari, who let loose a scream of delight after the final point.

"To be deadly honest, I got a little tight in the first two games of the second set," said Sakkari, who had saved six match points in her fourth-round win over American Jessica Pegula.

"I stayed within myself and started fighting back, hitting a few more balls and winning a few points against her."

- Medvedev seeks semi-finals -

Sakkari will face eighth-seeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu for a place in the final.

Andreescu, ranked ninth in the world, clawed out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over tenacious 58th-ranked Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion trying to work her way back this year after a 15-month injury absence, broke Sorribes in the final game of the opening set, launching a run of eight straight service breaks.

Andreescu was irked by a time violation early in the second, in which Sorribes held serve for the only time in the set for a 5-3 lead -- enough of an edge to level the match.

Up a break at 3-2 in the third, Andreescu saved three break points to hold, broke Sorribes again only to drop her own serve but finally sealed it with a stinging backhand down the line on her second match point.

Men's quarter-final action got underway at the Hard Rock Stadium with top-seeded Daniil Medvedev taking on seventh-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut.

The Spanish veteran has won both prior encounters with Medvedev, who was runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open and reached No. 2 in the world with his victory at Marseille in March.

The winner of that match will take on 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, who handled everything Alexander Bublik could throw at him in a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory.

From a 105mph forehand return to an underhand serve, Kazakhstan's Bublik tried everything he could think of, but it was Sinner, with 28 forehand winners, who booked a semi-final berth in just his third Masters 1000 appearance.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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