Naomi Osaka extended her winning grand slam run to 12 matches with a dominant victory over Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
The US Open champion has taken the increase in expectation and attention in her stride and needed only an hour and 12 minutes to wrap up a 6-4 6-1 win against the sixth seed, who struggled with a neck problem.
Osaka could now face a rematch of the controversial New York final against Serena Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in the second semi-final.
Speaking on court, the 21-year-old said: “I tried to be consistent, or as consistent as I can. She’s a really great player. It’s kind of unfortunate that she got injured. Playing against her even if she was injured was still really tough.
“I just had one goal, which was to try as hard as I can and not get angry, I think I did it really well so I’m very happy.”
Osaka had survived three-set clashes with tricky duo Hsieh Su-wei and Anastasija Sevastova in the last two rounds and looked much more comfortable against the more conventional game of Svitolina.
The Ukrainian, looking to move beyond the last eight at a slam for the first time at the fourth attempt, began 2019 with the confidence from winning the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals last October.
Svitolina broke Osaka when she served for the opening set at 5-3 but her second serve was taking a pounding and, although Osaka missed wildly on three set points, she converted her fourth.
The fourth seed’s record in matches after winning the first set is astonishing – she has now won 58 straight dating back to 2016 – so Svitolina was clearly up against it.
And the Ukrainian simply could not find a foothold in the match. She took a medical time-out at 0-3 in the second set to have treatment to her neck and shoulder, an issue that had bothered her in the third round against Zhang Shuai, but there was no way back.
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Boris Becker has urged Andy Murray to have hip surgery and believes the former world number one can get back to the top of the game.
Murray tearfully announced on the eve of the Australian Open that he was planning to retire this year because of ongoing right hip pain but a resurfacing operation could potentially allow him to play again.
There are no guarantees, however, with no singles player having successfully come back from such an operation, and Murray could choose instead to make a farewell appearance at Wimbledon.
But Becker, who is working as an expert for Eurosport at the tournament, believes Murray would regret not trying the surgical route.
He said: “I really like Andy, I know him well, but I really wish he’s not forced (to retire) because of an injury. I think that’s the worst for an athlete.
“So if there’s a possibility medically to get better so he can finish on his own terms, I think it’s vital for him and maybe the rest of his life. Because you will have a big chip on your shoulder.
“I’ve seen other athletes that have been forced out of their sport they love because of injury. Yes he’s been fighting it for 18 months and he’s tried everything, but we’re in 2019, there are new treatments for every type of injury, you just have to find the right doctors.”
Murray produced an extraordinary performance in the first round given his physical condition, losing over five sets to Roberto Bautista Agut, who went on to reach the quarter-finals.
Becker believes that should give him encouragement for the future, saying: “It wasn’t his first tournament after a lengthy lay-off so I wasn’t surprised about the level.
“He was number one in the world when he stopped 18 months ago and that’s not an eternity so, when fit, he’s one of the best. It’s a question of time. If he gets treated the right way, in my opinion, then he can come back and play some good matches.”
Murray is expected to decide his path of action in the next few days.
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Stefanos Tsitsipas followed up his landmark victory over Roger Federer by beating Roberto Bautista Agut to reach his first grand slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
Backing up breakthrough moments is notoriously difficult but Tsitsipas bucked the trend by battling to a 7-5 4-6 6-4 7-6 (2) win in three hours and 15 minutes.
The 20-year-old Greek had to dig deep on Rod Laver Arena, coming from a break down in the first and third sets before proving stronger in the fourth.
He fell to the court when Bautista Agut’s final return landed in the net and can look forward to a clash against either Rafael Nadal or Frances Tiafoe on Thursday.
Tsitsipas’ achievement makes him the youngest man to reach the last four at Melbourne Park since Andy Roddick in 2003 and the youngest at any slam since Novak Djokovic at the US Open in 2007.
He said: “It all feels like a fairytale almost. I’m just living the dream, living what I’ve been working for. I feel a bit emotional but not too much because I know I really worked hard to get here.”
The Greek said he had told his team in the off-season that one of his goals for the year was to reach a slam semi-final.
“When I was answering this question I thought I was crazy but it is real and it just happened,” he said.
With the match taking place at lunchtime rather than in the evening, the atmosphere was rather more muted than it had been for the Federer clash and the danger of a hangover was immediately apparent.
Federer did not manage to break the Tsitsipas serve at all despite 12 chances but Bautista Agut needed only one game.
However, Tsitsipas responded well, recovering the break to make it 4-4 and then continuing his momentum to win the set.
One break proved enough for Bautista Agut to win the second and it appeared his relentless baseline game may have worn down Tsitsipas when the Spaniard broke for 3-2 in the third.
But Tsitsipas continued to fight and believe, and he got his reward.
As in the first set, he broke back for 4-4 and then made it four games in a row to clinch it, putting behind him a bad forehand miss on his first set point to take it on the third with a backhand slice guided onto the line.
Bautista Agut was finally starting to look weary, which was no surprise given his run through to the last eight.
The 30-year-old needed five sets to beat Andy Murray, John Millman and Marin Cilic, with only a third-round victory over Karen Khachanov being in any way straightforward.
He won a long rally with a forehand onto the line to save a match point at 5-6 in the fourth set, Tsitsipas paying the price for playing a little too conservatively.
The Greek did not make the same mistake in the tie-break, stepping forward and going for his shots, and clinched the win on his second match point.