NEW YORK (Reuters) - Japan’s Naomi Osaka reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final by beating Aryna Sabalenka 6-3 2-6 6-4 in a pressure-packed clash of two hard-serving 20-year-old prospects.
Osaka, who won the Indian Wells Masters tournament in March, fired nine aces and produced 32 unforced errors, 10 fewer than her Belarussian opponent, in a gusty defensive performance.
Sabalenka, who saved three break points in the final set, flung her racket in dismay after committing a double-fault on match point, handing victory to her 19th-ranked opponent.
An emotional Osaka wiped tears from her eyes in an on-court interview, thanking the crowd and saying she would not have forgiven herself had she lost.
“I was just thinking I have to fight for every point; even if I break a leg I should try to get to every ball,” she said.
Osaka said Sabalenka’s blistering serve had been a key challenge to overcome toward the end of the match.
“I felt like I had a lot of chances to break her in the third set, then she would serve these really amazing serves. Like a part of me knew it was coming, but at the same time I was always very unprepared,” Osaka said. “I’m just real glad I was able to win in the end.”
She next faces Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar