Infosys | Officil digital innovation partner
Infosys | Officil digital innovation partner

Osaka edges brave Muguruza after titanic contest

Naomi Osaka has sounded her Australian Open title intentions loud and clear, saving two match points in an impressive fourth-round comeback over fellow former No.1 Garbine Muguruza on Sunday.

Trailing a set and a break in the second, a break in the third and staring down match points at 4-5, the No.3 seed shifted up a gear to conjure up a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victory.

SCOREBOARD: N Osaka d G Muguruza

Between them, they have split a career Grand Slam – Muguruza a French and Wimbledon, Osaka two US Opens and an Australian Open.

Such was their calibre, it was a showdown worthy of a major final.

It was fitting that the pair's first clash would be blessed with so many momentum shifts and frantic shot-making across almost two hours.

Garbine Muguruza had her moments, but couldn't nail the win

The result extends Osaka’s winning streak to 18 matches, a run which dates back to last February, and includes last year’s US Open trophy.

“I feel like today I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never played her before, but I just knew it was going to be tough,” Osaka said.

“I feel like I was a bit intimidated because I knew that she was playing really well coming into this match. For me I feel like in the stressful points I just had to go within myself.

“I know today I probably hit a lot of unforced errors, but it was something I probably needed to do because I couldn’t really give her any short balls because she’d finish it.”

14 Feb 21

Garbiñe Muguruza vs Naomi Osaka Match Highlights (4R) | Australian Open 2021


Runner-up to Ash Barty in Sunday’s Yarra Valley Classic final, Muguruza was on a tear of her own coming into the match.

She had cleaned up in nine of her past 11 matches and spent a mere three hours and 13 minutes on court in her first three rounds at the Australian Open.

After falling behind the early break, it was the 27-year-old – a finalist at AO2020 – who set a frenetic pace.

Landing 92 per cent of her first serves deep in the opening set she carried that dominance to a 6-4 advantage and quickly established a 2-0 lead in the second.

It flicked a switch in the Japanese No.3.

She pegged back the break and kept her nose in front before pouncing on her third set point to force a decider.

There were troubles early for Muguruza as she stared down a break point in the fourth game of the third, but she steadied to stay with her opponent and made Osaka pay.

A double fault surrendered the first break of the deciding set as Osaka was now fighting with herself as much as her opponent.

Muguruza went for the jugular as she hammered a second-serve return to draw the error and with it, two match points at 5-4, but again Osaka found her best with her back to the wall.

She fended off both and promptly held with an ace before she broke a suddenly passive Muguruza.

It was an opening she grabbed with both hands and never relinquished.

A tough loss for the Spaniard, no doubt, but a match she vowed she would still draw positives from once the dust settled.

“Really the difference I feel like it was one point. It's tough to say - probably one point that she played well, a big serve, a serve that I did well,” Muguruza said. 

“We had a lot of great points. I felt, of course, a little bit disappointed being 5-3 in the third set up, having match points. Is never a good feeling losing a match that you feel you could have changed in one second. But I left the court with a good feeling, very good feeling of this tournament in general.”

"I feel like I was a bit intimidated because I knew that she was playing really well."
Naomi Osaka

Her quarterfinal opponent will be the wily 35-year-old, Hsieh Su-Wei, a 6-4 6-2 winner over 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova – a task which Osaka admits she finds daunting.

“I’m not really looking forward to it,” she said. “She’s going to be really tough. Every time I’ve played her its three sets, really long. I played her two years ago here … I know that all the people she’s played are super difficult and for me I feel like whenever I play her I just have to expect everything.”

Hsieh became the oldest first-time quarterfinalist at a major, following her 71-minute triumph over the 2019 French Open runner-up.

It comes in her 38th Grand Slam main draw appearance.

“I try to show people that tennis is not just about money or sponsors,” Hsieh said. “Even if you don’t have any sponsor and keep trying hard, and working hard and keep finding a way to get into doubles or singles, it doesn’t matter, you still find a way to go somewhere you never think about.

“This is what I’m doing and I’m very happy that I’ve made it at a good level. It can show a lot of people that anything can happen.”

It’s a ledger that reads 3-1 in Osaka’s favour, and a promising omen for her is that every time the Japanese star has progressed beyond the fourth round at a major she has gone on to win it.

The marker has been laid down on Rod Laver Arena.