Reigning US and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka advanced to the Miami Open quarter-finals on Monday, stretching her win streak to 23 matches by defeating Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3.
The second-ranked Japanese star will next face Greek 23rd seed Maria Sakkari, who outlasted US 29th seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (8/6) at the WTA and ATP Masters Series event.
“I started off really well and then for some reason I became a little sluggish. My speed didn’t really feel the same,” Osaka said.
“I thought it was really mental from then on. In the end, it was who fought the hardest.”
Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka broke at love for a 2-0 lead and broke again for a 5-1 edge but Mertens broke Osaka at love in the seventh game and denied four set points for Osaka to hold in an eighth game that lasted almost 10 minutes.
Osaka, seeking her first Miami crown, saved a break point with her third ace and finally finished off the first set on her seventh chance with a service winner.
In the second set, Osaka needed her fifth chance of the third game to break Mertens, only for the Belgian to quickly break back to 2-2 and hold to 3-2 before requiring treatment for a right shoulder injury.
Osaka won the last four games after that, breaking at love in the seventh game, holding at love in the eighth and breaking again to end matters after 88 minutes when Mertens netted a forehand.
Top-ranked defending champion Ashleigh Barty battled into the quarter-finals by outlasting former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.—APP