MIAMI (AFP) ‒ 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 quarterfinals of the Miami Open.
Japan’s Osaka, playing her first tournament since lifting her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in February, won just eight points in the first set, failing to manage 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 semifinal 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.
“This is definitely something that shouldn’t bother me as much as it did.”
Osaka said she “felt like I was getting there” as she built her lead in the second set.
“I felt that even though it wasn’t pretty tennis — I like to try to play perfectly, but that doesn’t really happen most of the time — so I thought even though it wasn’t pretty tennis, I was trying to find a way to win the set,” she said, adding that she “would need more time to reflect” on just what went wrong.
Sakkari broke Osaka for the second time in the match after trailing 40-0 to seize a 5-4 advantage, then served out to win the match after 69 minutes when Osaka sent a forehand beyond the baseline.