Belinda Bencic Takes Out No. 1 and Defending Champion Naomi Osaka in the US Open Fourth Round
(September 2, 2019) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Defending champion Naomi Osaka has been knocked out of the US Open. The world No. 1 fell to No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 7-5, 6-4 on Monday in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Bencic is now in the quarterfinals of the US Open for the second time. She did it in 2014.
The 13th seed, Bencic came into the match having beaten Osaka twice this year – at Indian Wells and Madrid.
The 21-year-old Bencic broke serve to open the match and had break points to go up a double break for 3-0, but Osaka fought back winning the next three games for 3-2. Both players stayed even until the 11th game when Bencic broke serve again and held to close out the first set 7-5.
In the second set, Bencic, a former member of the Top Ten, broke the Japanese player’s serve at love in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and held on for a 7-5, 6-4 victory. Osaka had a visit from the trainer and the doctor, in the second set but not take a medical time out. She was given some medication.
“I hurt my knee in Cincinnati, but it’s getting better,” Osaka said. “I don’t want to say that that’s the reason that I lost, because I obviously had played, like, three matches before this.”
“I had to be at my top of the game so I’m really pleased with how I played and how I managed my nerves at the end, Bencic said after the match in her on-court interview.
“I’m just trying to play it a little bit like chess,” she added.
The loss for Osaka means that she will fall out of the top spot, replaced by the current No. 2 Ashleigh Barty.
“I think she played pretty clean. I think she had, like, a specific plan she wanted to execute, ” said Osaka to media.
“Right now I have this feeling of sadness, but I also feel like I have learned so much during this tournament. Honestly, of course I wanted to defend this tournament.”
“I honestly didn’t move well today,” Osaka admitted. “I felt like I was always flat-footed. Given that she’s very aggressive, of course if you’re surprised you would be on the back foot. But I have played her so many times that I’m not surprised at this point.
Yeah, I mean, the knee was a little bit annoying in the movement aspect, but I think that that’s something I should have overcome in a way that I either should have started playing more aggressively or just, like, tried to, like, hit at a higher length.
“I feel like the steps that I have taken as a person have been much greater than, like, I would imagine at this point,” Osaka added. “So I hope that I can keep growing. I know that if I keep working hard, then of course I’ll have better results.”
Bencic last reached the quarterfinals back in 2014 as a teenager. Since then she’s been up and down with injures.
“It’s been a long way since then, for sure,” said the Swiss. “People always think I’m a little bit older than I actually am, because I’ve been here since 16, 17. I think definitely it was a good time. I learned so many things. I think it was — everyone expected to go just up. That’s not how tennis goes. I think all true athletes have to overcome obstacles, injuries, just tough times. I think it made me a stronger person, better player.”
“I just came with the same mentality like I played her before and just really focused on the game and not about the hype or the occasion, the stadium and the round, ” said Bencic.
“After the match, it feels definitely different. It feels like this was the most important one.”
On consecutive days at the US Open, the top players on both tours – Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka have lost.
Donna Vekic rallied from a set and a break down, saving a match point to beat German Julia Goerges, the 26th seed 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3 in the fourth round to reach the first major quarterfinal of her career.
Goerges, serving for the match at 7-6(5), 5-4 hit 3 double-faults and did not convert on a match point, broken by Vekic broke for 5-5. Goerges’ level plummeted and Vekic won the next 2 games to take the set 7-5 and level the match at one set all.
“I think I definitely had the momentum on my side after second set,” said Vekic. “I knew she was going to be thinking about her match point, and, you know, I was just — I had few chances to break her earlier in the third set, but she was just serving amazing today. But I’m happy that I could break her and then serve it out.”
The Croatian, 23, seeded 23, gained the crucial service break in the eighth game of the third to go up 5-3, and served out the match for the win.
The was Vekic’s first win over the German. She came into match 0-3.
This is the third time this year that the Croatian has won from match point down.
“I think definitely I change a lot mentally this year. I improved a lot in believing I could win at any given moment even when I’m match points down.
“I think in Toronto against Madison, that was just a whole ‘nother level. I was like one foot in the locker room already.
“But, yeah, I think when the matches are, like, this close, you know, even if you’re match points down, you have to believe that you can win. I was really going out there, when she was serving for 5-4, I was really thinking I could win this game and try to turn the match around.”
“I’m happy to win and I’m happy to win saving match points, happy to be first time in the quarterfinals. I’m just happy right now, ” said a glowing Vekic to media during her news conference.
Vekic will play Bencic for a place in the US Open semifinals. Bencic leads in their head-to-head match-ups at 2-1, but Vekic beat Bencic easily at the most recent French Open.
Bencic, who is good friends with Vekic talked about their match-up or former child prodigies with ups and downs. “I think it means a lot, because, she was also very good with 16, 17 won her first WTA title. Then it was, you know, the pressure and some injuries, some difficult times. Now we’re both back. It feels very nice. I’m very happy for her. But definitely I want to win.
“But still I think it will be great that one of us will be in semifinal.”
“This is really such an amazing achievement for me,” said Vekic. “I have been already three times in the fourth round, and now making my first quarterfinals, it’s amazing.
“But I think me, if this happened to me when I was 18, I would be, like, Oh, my God, this is unreal. But right now I’m, like, really happy but I’m not done. I don’t want to be done. I feel like there is still a lot to be done here, and I really want to keep going and try to win a few more matches.”
Vekic said of their quarterfinal match-up: “We always joke that we are playing each other in the draw. But we actually played in Paris. And was that the first time I beat her? I think so. We practice together often. I know her very well. She’s such a nice girl.”
“I’m really looking forward to share the court with her on Wednesday.”
Elise Mertens is into her first US Open quarterfinal with a 6-1, 6-1 win over US wild card Kristie Ahn in 67 minutes.
“I’m just trying to focus every time I step on court, just trying to look at point per point.”
“I was trying to play aggressive,’ said Mertens. “That’s probably the main key. Just try to focus throughout the whole match.”
The 25th seed from Belgium hit 17 winners during the match. Mertens reached the semifinals of the Australian Open last year.
For the 27-year-old Ahn, it was 11 years ago when she first made it into the US Open as a wild card.
Talking about her potential opponents, the Belgian said: (Taylor) Townsend has great hands, coming to the net a lot. I don’t really know a lot about her. But I know from juniors actually, so I kind of know her.
Then (Bianca) Andreescu has an all-around game. She’s on fire when she’s on the court. It’s going to be really tough either way.