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Osaka reaches Australian Open semis with win over Hsieh

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    Kyodo News

Melbourne, Australia   /   Tue, February 16, 2021   /   04:30 pm
Osaka reaches Australian Open semis with win over Hsieh Naomi Osaka of Japan serves against Jennifer Brady of the United States (not pictured) in a women's singles semi-finals match on Thursday during the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (USA Today Sports via Reuters/Danielle Parhizkaran)

No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka sailed through to the semifinals of the Australian Open with a straight-sets win Tuesday over Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei.

Having lost just one of their five past meetings, the three-time Grand Slam winner from Japan never looked threatened throughout the 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal victory over world No. 71 Hsieh at an empty Rod Laver Arena.

The 66-minute contest was in marked contrast to Osaka's fourth-round battle against Spain's Garbine Muguruza, in which she survived two match points and fought back from 5-3 down in the third set.

Osaka won her first break point in the fourth game, finishing with a powerful backhand winner after Hsieh clawed her way to deuce from 15-40 down.

Although she allowed Hsieh to hang around in games while struggling with her first-serve accuracy, Osaka closed out the set in 36 minutes.

She won break point on Hsieh's first service game of the second set and maintained her intensity, while avoiding the unforced errors that nearly proved costly against Muguruza.

With three return winners for the match, Osaka closed out the contest against Hsieh's serve after earning three match points.

Osaka, who lifted the trophy in Melbourne Park in 2019, said Hsieh had been a tougher opponent than the scoreboard suggested.

"Even though the score was like this, it was such a battle," Osaka said. "She's able to hit winners from both sides."

The 23-year-old said winning the knock-down fight with Muguruza had given her greater confidence as she pursues back-to-back Grand Slams, following her second U.S. Open title in September.

"It makes me a bit more calm just knowing that even though my back was severely against the wall, I still had opportunities," said Osaka, who will face the winner of the quarterfinal between Simona Halep and childhood idol Serena Williams.

"I don't normally look at my draw," Osaka said. "I know my next opponent is Serena or Halep (because) I always watch Serena's matches."

In the women's doubles, the seventh-seeded Japanese pair of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara lost their quarterfinal match against second seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-2, 6-0.

After initially allowing spectators, the tournament is proceeding behind closed doors following the reintroduction of emergency measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state of Victoria.