MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Naomi Osaka saw her most successful run at a Grand Slam end Monday in a straight-sets loss to top seed Simona Halep in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
In a breakout tournament, the 20-year-old knocked out two seeded players on her way to the fourth round, but was no match for the world No. 1 from Romania, who survived four break points in the sixth game of the first set before cruising to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Halep, 26, needed just 1 hour, 19 minutes to book a trip to the quarterfinals, winning five break points against the big-serving Osaka, who came into the match without having lost a set.
Osaka ensured her best-ever finish at a Grand Slam by beating Australian 18th seed Ashleigh Barty on Saturday in front of a vocal home crowd at Margaret Court Arena. The victory followed her second-round disposal of 16th-seeded Elena Vesnina of Russia.
Halep, who could lose her No. 1 ranking if she doesn’t win the title here, extended her record of not having lost a fourth-round match on hard courts at a Grand Slam since the 2013 U.S. Open.
Angelique Kerber remains the only Grand Slam singles winner in the women’s draw after rallying to avoid a major upset.
For a while it appeared Kerber’s progression may have unraveled against No. 88 Hsieh Su-wei, a former top-ranked doubles player with a double-handed grip on both sides.
Former No. 1-ranked Kerber finally got a succession of breaks to finish off the second set and dominate the third in a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory that earned her a quarterfinal spot against U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys.
Defending champion Roger Federer had no such difficulties in reaching the quarterfinals for the 14th time, calmly beating Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
The win over Fucsovics was Federer’s first day match of the 2018 tournament, and he joked about needing sunglasses and a towel for the beach but really said the only change was to set the alarm for a different time.
Kerber was up earlier, and got a serious wakeup call.
With a mix of slices and chips, lobs and bunts, whippy half-volleys and wristy crosscourt ground strokes off both wings, Hsieh pushed Kerber to the extremes and unsettled her rhythm.
“Credit to her. She played an unbelievable match,” said Kerber, who won the Australian and U.S. Open titles and reached No. 1 in 2016. “I was feeling I was running everywhere. She was playing a lot of corners and drop shots. I was bringing a lot of balls back.”
Keys returned to the quarterfinals here for the first time in three years with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 8-seeded Caroline Garcia. She has yet to drop a set so far.