HONG KONG - Naomi Osaka stunned world No. 5 Venus Williams in straight sets in the second round of the Hong Kong Open on Wednesday.
Osaka reeled off eight consecutive games at one stage on her way to a 7-5, 6-2 victory that sent her into the quarterfinals.
It all seemed to be going to plan for Williams when she broke the 19-year-old Osaka in the fifth game of the opening set.
But then Williams’ first serve deserted her when serving for the set at 5-4.
Two double faults and a series of fierce ground strokes from Osaka, which unerringly kissed the lines, enabled the world No. 64 to break twice and take the set 7-5.
“She played well,” a disappointed Williams told reporters.
“You know, I made a few errors at 5-4 and after that she played pretty flawless. I can only give her credit.”
Osaka, who made headlines when she knocked Angelique Kerber out of the U.S. Open in the first round last month, continued in the same vein at the start of the second set and raced out to a 5-0 lead.
“I felt like I played offensively and hit really deep hard balls, but she had the luck today and could return those balls even harder and deeper,” said Williams.
Williams briefly rallied to 5-2, but after a Osaka got a pep talk from her coach, the Japanese refocused and closed out the match on her serve at the second time of asking after an hour and 24 minutes.
“Venus is someone I’ve respected and admired,” said Osaka, who had not been born when Williams reached her first Grand Slam final, at the 1997 US Open.
“I’ve grown up watching her. Even though she someone I admire, it’s just another opponent at the end of the day so I tried to focus.”