Tennis

Naomi Osaka books spot in China Open semifinals, qualifies for WTA Finals

Kyodo

World No. 4 Naomi Osaka advanced to the semifinals of the China Open on Friday and qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals featuring the top eight singles players and eight doubles teams.

The 21-year-old Osaka beat 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu from Canada 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 at the National Tennis Center in their first career meeting to end the U.S. Open champion’s 17-match winning streak.

Osaka, the reigning Australian Open champion and 2018 U.S. Open champion, started slow and quickly fell to a 1-5 deficit. After losing the first set 5-7, she battled her way back to ride a five-game winning streak to take the second set.

The third set was tied at 1-1, 3-3 and 4-4, then Osaka broke in the ninth game and closed out the match with her 10th and final ace on her third match point.

The much-hyped match between the two young tennis stars who are reigning Grand Slam champions lasted 2 hours and 14 minutes. Osaka finished with 31 winners to 30 unforced errors and 10 aces.

She will play title holder Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in Saturday’s semifinals.

Following her quarterfinal victory, Osaka became the fifth qualifier for the WTA Finals.

“I am very proud to have qualified for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen for a second year,” Osaka was quoted as saying on the WTA website.

“There is an amazing atmosphere at this event and to compete on this stage, with the top players of the season, is an honor and a challenge that I’m really looking forward to.”

For the second year in a row, Osaka secured her place in the year-end championships by ranking fifth in the Race to Shenzhen leaderboard. This year, the WTA Finals will be held from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3 in the Chinese city.

Osaka is only the second Japanese woman to qualify in consecutive years, following Kimiko Date, who did so for three years in a row from 1994 to 1996.

She joins Andreescu, Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep in the field.

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