MIAMI • In a short stretch on Saturday afternoon, the women's draw of the Miami Open lost its two biggest attractions - though only one was playing.
Top-ranked Naomi Osaka lost her third-round match 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 to 27th-seeded Hsieh Su-wei, while midway through that match, eight-time tournament champion Serena Williams unexpectedly pulled out, citing a left knee injury.
The 10th seed, who last won in Miami in 2015, was due to face 18th-seeded Wang Qiang of China in their third-round clash yesterday.
Osaka had won 63 straight matches when winning the first set, dating to 2016, and was also leading 2-0 early in the third set before her Chinese Taipei opponent levelled and then took the lead for good.
Although the Japanese had beaten Hsieh in the third round of the Australian Open en route to her second major, the 33-year-old veteran has established a reputation as a giant-killer and was able to avenge her defeat in Melbourne.
Afterwards, the world No. 1 berated herself for taking her eye off the ball and blamed "immaturity", before admitting she was at a loss as to "why this is happening".
The 21-year-old said in her post-match interview: "It's unusual for me, I got ahead of myself.
I didn't underestimate her, maybe (I) overestimated myself.
NAOMI OSAKA, on her loss to Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-wei in the third round of the Miami Open on Saturday
"There were some times when I was returning (that) I felt myself getting relaxed because I thought I would be able to serve it out anyway. I just need to focus more and know I can't just turn it on or off.
"I knew it would be a tough match playing her. She is unpredictable, hitting down the line when I thought she would go cross court. I was thinking too much, like everything was on my racket.
"Of course I want to win every match and I have dealt with people always asking me if I am going to win because I have No. 1 next to my name. I didn't underestimate her, maybe (I) overestimated myself. All the times I played her went to three sets. In Australia, honestly she should have won, but I found a way to win it."
While Osaka will now turn her attention towards the clay-court season and ramp up preparations for the French Open, the loss could jeopardise her position at tennis' summit, with Romania's Simona Halep and Czech Petra Kvitova closing in on her.
Her troubles, however, pale in comparison with Williams, who has completed just seven matches this year, and issued a brief statement to express her "disappointment".
The American also withdrew at Indian Wells with illness midway through her last-32 match with Spaniard Garbine Muguruza and there are surely doubts now whether she can add to her tally of 23 singles Grand Slams, something which has so far proved beyond her since returning from a 13-month motherhood hiatus last year.
It is unclear when Williams, 37, will return to action as the next mandatory WTA event is the Madrid Open in May, where she has not been part of the field since 2015. She also did not play any clay-court tournaments before last year's French Open.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NY TIMES
ATP MIAMI OPEN
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