September 3, 2018 / 8:50 PM / in a year

Osaka reaches first Grand Slam quarter-final

Sep 3, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates after match point against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (not pictured) in the fourth round on day eight of the US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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

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