Sat | Nov 17, 2018

No sweat for Japan's Osaka

Published:Thursday | September 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Naomi Osaka, of Japan, reacts after defeating Lesia Tsurenko, of Ukraine, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament yesterday.

NEW YORK (AP):

Naomi Osaka charged into the first Grand Slam semifinal by a Japanese woman in 22 years, routing Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 yesterday in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

The No. 20 seed continued what has been a largely dominant run through the draw by winning in just 57 minutes, the third time in her five matches she didn't even have to play for an hour.

Osaka moved from Japan to New York at age three, and her deepest major run is coming at the same tournament she first visited as a child.

"Well, it definitely means a lot for me, and I always thought if I were to win a Grand Slam, the first one I'd want to win is the US Open, because I have grown up here and, like, then my grandparents can come and watch," she said. "I think it would be really cool."

She raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set and then 4-0 in the second against the shaky Tsurenko, who finished with more unforced errors than points in her first major quarterfinal.

Osaka will face either 14th-seeded Madison Keys or No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro in the first major semifinal appearance for a Japanese woman since Kimiko Date reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1996.

The 20-year-old said she was nervous, claiming to be "freaking out inside" though it certainly never showed.

"Just like my entire body was shaking, so I'm really glad I was able to play well today," she said.

She won 59 points to just 28 for the unseeded Ukrainian, who knocked off No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

But Tsurenko said she was sick Wednesday, waking up with a sore throat and not breathing well.

"Unfortunately, during this tournament, I had many issues, with my health, and today was not my day obviously. I was not feeling well," she said.

Tsurenko laboured in the heat during her fourth-round victory over Marketa Vondrousova, having her temperature and blood checked during a medical timeout in the first set and nearly quitting when she trailed early in the second. She recovered to win in three sets, with her opponent accusing her of acting after the match.

It was another hot afternoon yesterday with temperatures in the high-80s (30s Celsius) but feeling some 10 degrees hotter with the humidity.

Tsurenko didn't appear bothered by the conditions, but whether it was her health or just first-time jitters, she was off from the minute she stepped onto Arthur Ashe Stadium.