Tennis: Osaka steamrolls Tsurenko to become first Japanese woman in 22 years to reach US Open semis

Osaka serving against Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
Osaka serving against Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Naomi Osaka enjoyed a comfortable 6-1 6-1 win over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko at the US Open on Wednesday (Sept 5) to become the first Japanese woman in 22 years to reach the semi-final stage of a Grand Slam.

The 20th-seeded Osaka, a rising talent who won her first career title in March at Indian Wells, used a lethal ground game and solid serving to overwhelm a fatigued Tsurenko, who laboured in stifling conditions on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

Osaka, the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Kimiko Date at Wimbledon in 1996, broke Tsurenko five times during a match that only lasted 57 minutes.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who has looked comfortable on one of the sport’s biggest stages, was tearful after her fourth-round clash but much less emotional after her latest win.

“The other time I cried a little bit and there was a lot of people making fun of me,” Osaka said during her on-court interview. 

“I was freaking out inside, just like my whole body was shaking, so I’m really glad I was able to play well.”

Osaka’s first serve percentage was only 59 per cent but she did not concede a point behind her first serve the entire first set and only surrendered seven points on serve over the match.

Tsurenko, the only unseeded woman to reach this stage of the tournament, appeared to be feeling the effects of her last-16 clash during which she struggled in the searing heat and at one point looked like she was about to collapse.

“Unfortunately, during this tournament I had many issues with my health, and today was not my day obviously. I was not feeling well,” Tsurenko told reporters.

“I just woke up today with a viral illness or whatever it is ... I don’t know what happened, but my throat is not well. I’m not breathing well.” 

The Ukrainian had a small window to grab momentum but failed to cash in on her three break-point opportunities while trailing 4-1 in the second set and Osaka fought back before cruising through the final game.

Tsurenko, who stunned Danish second seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round, is still projected to rise 10 spots to a career-high 26th in the world rankings.

Up next up for Osaka will be the winner of the evening match between 2017 runner-up Madison Keys, who at 14 is the highest seed left in the women’s draw, and Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.

The speedy win over Tsurenko was the third time Osaka has wrapped up victory in under an hour in New York and should allow her to be fresh for Thursday’s semi-final.