BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka was eliminated in the semifinals of the Brisbane International on Saturday, losing in three sets to defending champion Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
The world No. 4 went down 6-7 (10-12), 7-6 (7- 3), 6-2 in a hard-fought match lasting just under 2 hours, 50 minutes at Pat Rafter Arena.
Pliskova will face American No. 8 seed Madison Keys in the final following her third win from five meetings against Osaka.
“I think it was great tennis. She (Osaka) is always tough to play,” world No. 2 Pliskova said. “I think I did a great job to stay after a tough first set and second (set) and just kept fighting and it paid off.”
Competing in her first tournament of the season and first under new coach Wim Fissette, Osaka started strongly on the way to racking up 16 aces and 53 winners for the match.
But Pliskova forced a tiebreaker after saving a match point in the second set.
The second set was a repeat of the first with few opportunities to break until Pliskova faltered at 5-5 to give Osaka the chance to serve for the match.
She came from 0-30 down to 40-30, but Pliskova rallied, saved match point and then broke Osaka to send the set to a tiebreak.
The 27-year-old claimed three consecutive games in the final set to seal the win, and Osaka saw the third set slip away with two service breaks.
In the first semifinal, Keys held firm when it counted to defeat two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and make her first Brisbane final.
After losing the first set and being down an early break in the second, Keys began to serve more effectively and find her range with her groundstrokes against an increasingly nervous Kvitova.
From 0-2 down and staring a semifinal exit in the face, Keys broke back to make it 2-2 and surged ahead to level the match.
Both players struggled to hold serve in the final set — there were five service breaks in a row — but at 5-3 Keys held her nerve and from 0-30 she won four points in a row to become the first American into a Brisbane final since Serena Williams won the title in 2014.