Tennis

Naomi Osaka ousted in quarterfinals at Madrid Open; Kei Nishikori loses in third round

Reuters, AP

World No. 1 Naomi Osaka lost in three sets to unseeded Swiss Belinda Bencic in the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Thursday as Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens completed the final four lineup.

Osaka, 21, admitted she over-thought about the need to win the match in order to retain her ranking at the top of the women’s game as she went down 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The 21-year-old was a break up in the final set against Bencic, but was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 as the wind swirled despite the blue skies in the Spanish capital.

“People have been telling me that if I get to the semis I stay at No. 1 so I wanted to do that,” Osaka said.

“I wanted to do that and was thinking about it while I was playing, which wasn’t a good thing. I play my best when I’m calm and today I wasn’t, so that’s the biggest thing I can learn.”

Bencic will face two-time Madrid champion Halep in the last four after the Romanian beat ninth seed Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 7-5.

If Halep wins the tournament, she will replace Osaka at the top of the WTA rankings heading into the French Open.

Stephens comfortably saw off Croatian Petra Martic 6-4, 6-3 to set up a semifinal with Bertens after the Dutch seventh seed stunned world No. 2 Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-3 in Thursday’s late match under the floodlights.

In men’s action, facing match point and on a second serve, Roger Federer decided it was time for a “panic move.”

So he went into all-out attacking mode, charging to the net to try to avoid a disappointing end to his first clay-court tournament since 2016.

It worked.

A lucky volley, followed by a smash winner, kept Federer in the match. An aggressive forehand two points later allowed him to save a second match point, and he went on to beat Gael Monfils 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3) in the third round of the Madrid Open on Thursday.

It was the 1,200th career win for Federer, allowing him to join Jimmy Connors as the only male players to have reached the milestone in the Open Era.

Stan Wawrinka beat Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) in their third-round match.