Inspired by young guns, Osaka marches on in Melbourne
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[January 21, 2019]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - U.S. Open
champion Naomi Osaka said she drew inspiration from Stefanos
Tsitsipas's shock win over Roger Federer after booking her maiden
Australian Open quarter-final spot with a grinding 4-6 6-3 6-4 win
over Anastasija Sevastova on Monday.
The Japanese fourth seed had to come back from a set down for a
second successive match at Melbourne Park, having survived a big
scare against Taiwan's wily Hsieh Su-Wei on Saturday.
At a tournament featuring thrilling runs by a number of youthful
players, 21-year-old Osaka hunkered down to watch 20-year-old
Tsitsipas take on Federer on Sunday, and seeing the Greek topple the
Swiss master gave her an additional spur.
"I was watching all these kids winning and saw Tsitsipas beat
Federer last night and was like, 'whoa'," Osaka said on court after
beating Latvian 13th seed Sevastova at Rod Laver Arena.
"I was watching him and also (Frances) Tiafoe, they were playing
really well. They came out here against the top players and won. I
wanted to do that as well."
Tiafoe had a 21st birthday to remember as the American upset former
semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov in another upset on Sunday.
Having beaten Serena Williams in straight sets during the U.S. Open
final, there was nothing particularly shocking about Osaka reaching
the quarter-finals in Melbourne where she will meet sixth seed Elina
Yet she was grateful not to join a long list of first-time Grand
Slam champions that have flamed out quickly at their next major.
"To reach the quarter-finals here, of course, I'm very happy," she
"A little part of me is relieved, because I have never reached the
quarter-finals of a tournament (at) a Grand Slam aside from New
York. So, definitely this was one of my goals."
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Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts during her match against Latvia's
Anastasija Sevastova. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Another will be to start better against Svitolina, the reigning WTA
Osaka was far from her best as she struggled to hold serve against
U.S. Open semi-finalist Sevastova and berated herself regularly
during the sun-bathed clash at Rod Laver Arena.
She held firm when it counted, however, breaking Sevastova in the
seventh game of the decider before sealing the match with an
imperious forehand down the line.
Osaka's post-match media conferences have been entertaining, a mix
of awkwardness, humor and disarming candor.
Having known only tennis since a child, she said she still needed to
mature both on and off the court.
"I think I don't really have to deal with the things that I guess
normal people have to deal with," she said.
"Outside of the court, too, my maturity level isn't that big. I
don't have the biggest responsibilities.
"I just play tennis, and that's basically it. On and off the court,
definitely I think I need to improve that."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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