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Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori advance to Australian Open fourth round

KYODO, AP

Reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second year in a row, while Kei Nishikori also reached the last 16.

World No. 4 Osaka survived a major scare in her campaign for a second straight Grand Slam title, bouncing back after losing the first set and going 4-1 down in the second to beat world No. 27 Hsieh Su-wei 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in just under two hours.

The fourth-seeded Osaka will face 13th seed Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth round. The pair have split their four previous meetings, the most recent of which was in Brisbane at the start of this year, when Osaka came back from a set down to win 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.

Osaka dropped a set for the first time at this year’s tournament after conceding three service breaks in the first set at Margaret Court Arena. She committed 20 of her 42 unforced errors during the set and at one stage threw her racket in frustration.

The 33-year-old Hsieh staged upsets last season against Spain’s world No. 18 Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open and No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania at Wimbledon, but she could not manage another on Saturday.

After trailing 4-1 in the second set, Osaka got on track to claim five games in a row. She fired 14 winners to Hsieh’s six in the deciding set.

Later on the same court, Nishikori defeated Portugal’s Joao Sousa 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the fourth round for the seventh time. The win over the world No. 44 was Nishikori’s first straight-sets victory at this year’s tournament.

“It’s great to play especially after Naomi today,” Nishikori said. “In the second and third (sets) I was able to play aggressively and everything was working well.”

Two days after playing a grueling five-setter that lasted nearly four hours, world No. 9 Nishikori wrapped up the match against Sousa in 2 hours, 6 minutes.

He will play Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who defeated Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the third round, for his first quarterfinal berth in Melbourne since 2016.

Nishikori missed last year’s Australian Open after a right wrist injury cut his 2017 season short. He has made the quarterfinals three times, but has never advanced to the semis.

“Everything is going well. I finished in three good sets today. I’m playing and very much look forward to next week,” he said.

In other action, Milos Raonic eased to a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert to move into the fourth round for the sixth time.

It came after Raonic had two tough opening matches with Nick Kyrgios and 2014 champion Stan Warwinka.

Raonic swept to 3-0 and 5-1 leads in the tiebreaker but Herbert rallied to level at 5-5. Herbert saved one match point before Raonic clinched the match with an ace.

Serena Williams played clean and powerful tennis to overwhelm 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-2, 6-1 and reach the fourth round.

Williams grabbed a pair of service breaks and a 4-0 lead after less than 15 minutes.

Not only has Williams won every set she played this week — and 20 in a row at Melbourne Park, dating to the start of her 2017 run to the title — but she’s ceded a total of only nine games through three victories.

Things could finally get interesting in Week 2, though, as Williams bids for an eighth Australian Open championship and record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles trophy in all: She will face No. 1-ranked Simona Halep, who dispatched Venus Williams in a Saturday night match.

In Saturday’s late action, Lucas Pouille ended the run of 19-year-old wild-card entry Alex Popyrin by holding on to edge him 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-7 (10-12), 4-6, 6-3 in the third round.

The 28th-seeded Pouille, who is coached by Amelie Mauresmo, wasted a set point at 8-7 in the third-set tiebreaker, but eventually pulled out the victory in 3 hours, 43 minutes.

Popyrin was trying to become just the eighth wild card to get to the fourth round in men’s singles at the Australian Open during the 50-year professional era.

Karolina Pliskova, meanwhile, reached the women’s fourth round for the third year in a row.

The 2016 U.S. Open runner-up and No. 7 seed eliminated 27th-seeded Camila Giorgi 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Pliskova will face two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza for a quarterfinal berth.

Muguruza earned a straightforward 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory over Timea Bacsinszky.

This one was underway before 7:30 p.m. and was done by about 9:15 p.m.