SPORTS

Sakkari defeats Osaka in Miami Open

sakkari-defeats-osaka-in-miami-open

Maria Sakkari upset No.2-ranked Naomi Osaka 6-0, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open Wednesday, ending her 23-match winning streak, which included the US Open and Australian Open titles.

Osaka’s defeat ended any chance of reclaiming the No. 1 ranking this week from Ash Barty, who is in the semifinals.

Sakkari will next play No. 8-seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who dropped serve eight times but still outlasted unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Andreescu is playing in the United States for the first time since winning the 2019 US Open.

The other women’s semifinal Thursday will pit No. 1-seeded Ash Barty against No. 5 Elina Svitolina.

Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in February, but in five Miami appearances she has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals. She said couldn’t get comfortable on the tournament’s hard-court surface.

“I felt like I haven’t been playing well this whole tournament, like I couldn’t find a groove,” she said.

Against Sakkari, the only Greek woman ranked in the top 250, Osaka lost 15 consecutive points on her serve to fall behind and blew a 4-1 lead in the second set. She faced a break point on seven of her eight service games.

“Today’s service problems kind of came out of nowhere,” Osaka said. “My first serve wasn’t going in at all today.”

Sakkari earned her sixth career win over a top-five opponent. She’s still in the tournament only because she saved six match points in the previous round before beating American Jessica Pegula.

Osaka made just 41% of her first serves and paid a price, because Sakkari aggressively attacked the second serve. Sakkari also served well and would repeatedly extend rallies until Osaka made an error.

“I don’t think it was the best tennis I played in my life,” Sakkari said. “I just did what I had to do.”

Osaka took a 40-0 lead in the opening game, but didn’t win another point on her serve until the second set. When she ended the drought, she received a big ovation from the small crowd, which she followed up with her best stretch of tennis.

But Sakkari rallied. From 40-0 down she won five consecutive points, hitting one last thunderous return to break for a 5-4 lead. She then coolly served out the victory.

“I just really enjoyed myself out there,” Sakkari said.

[AP]