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Miami Open: Sakkari stuns Osaka, Sinner into semis

  • Matt Trollope

Naomi Osaka’s 23-match winning streak came to an end on Wednesday in Miami after the world No.2 was overwhelmed by Maria Sakkari.

The Greek beat Osaka 6-0 6-4 to take her place in the semifinals and will next face Bianca Andreescu, who later survived a torrid two-hour, 35-minute battle against in-form Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Also progressing to the last four was Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, who saw off Alexander Bublik in straight sets. 

Next up for Sinner is Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who brushed top seed Daniil Medvedev aside for the loss of just six games. 

Osaka’s loss means world No.1 and defending Miami Open champion Ash Barty will retain the top ranking.

And she rarely looked convincing against Sakkari, failing to hit a single winner in the opening set and registering just five for the match, compared with 23 unforced errors. 

Although she led 4-1 in the second set, Osaka then lost five straight games to suffer her first loss since February 2020, when she went down to Sorribes Tormo in a Fed Cup rubber.

“I felt like I haven't been playing well this whole tournament, like I couldn't find a groove, so mentally it's really hard for me to, I don't know, like play against really high-quality players with what I feel is low-quality tennis,” Osaka admitted.

“I feel a bit similar to when I lost to Coco in Australia (in 2020), but I think in this match it's different. Like I feel I played worse here possibly but I fought more. So I think I am improving in that way.”

Sakkari, meanwhile, continued her magical run in Miami.

Having saved six match points to oust the in-form Jessica Pegula in round four, the world No.25 has now advanced to the biggest semifinal of her career.

“I think also beating Serena (at the 2020 Western & Southern Open) was equally big, but beating her after 23 matches in a row without losing, it was a big thing, of course. For sure it's one of the biggest wins of my career,” said Sakkari, whose record against Osaka now stands at 2-3.

“I don't think tennis-wise it was like the best tennis I have ever played in my life. I think I executed our strategy with (coach) Tom (Hill) really well. I just did what I had to do.

“Of course winning a match from six match points down gives you a lot of confidence. Coming into that match I was feeling great with my tennis, and I think I just really enjoyed myself out there.”

Andreescu advances

Also enjoying herself is Andreescu, who won her third straight three-set match in South Florida.

Playing in just her third tournament after missing the entire 2020 season due to injuries, Andreescu powered 42 winners past the dogged Sorribes Tormo, who entered the contest having won 11 of her past 12 matches.

One of those was a backhand winner down the line on match point, sending the 2019 US Open champion through to her first semifinal in Miami.

"I know what I'm capable of, and this (semifinal result) doesn't surprise me because I know that I'm a really good fighter. I never give up, even through adversity," said Andreescu, who recovered from 2-4 down in the first set to win 6-4 3-6 6-3. 

"I'm super proud with how I handled it tonight because it wasn't easy. She's a really tough player. 

"(At the net) I was, like, 'girl, you can run. You're crazy'. I told her that she played amazing and that we're gonna be seeing a lot of you. She just said, 'thank you and good luck'."

Sinner soars into semifinals

Sinner, meanwhile, progresses to his first ATP Masters semifinal in just his fourth appearance at a Masters-level event. 

The 19-year-old has dropped only one set this fortnight in Miami and improves his 2021 win-loss record to 13-4. 

He trailed 5-3 in the first set, 4-1 in the first-set tiebreak, and 3-0 in the second set, but eventually recorded a 7-6(5) 6-4 triumph over Bublik.

"If somebody ask me what has been your best week, it's tough to answer. We will see at the end of the week," Sinner smiled.

"Obviously I'm very happy being in the semifinal, but after tomorrow I have a tough match once more. 

"Especially these two weeks now in Dubai and here, I have more clear what I have to do. It's working quite well."

He will next tackle seventh seed Bautista Agut, who beat Medvedev in just over 90 minutes to take his head-to-head record against the Russian to 3-0.

Sinner beat Bautista Agut in their only previous meeting just two weeks ago in Dubai.

"To beat Daniil in two sets it's because I played great tennis. I was very solid and I could play with a lot of rhythm, make him work a lot," Bautista Agut said.

"Physically I felt well on the court. It was a very tight first set. Well, it was a great match from my side."