Britain’s Katie Boulter gave a great account of herself but could not stop Naomi Osaka from extending her winning streak to 13 matches at the Gippsland Trophy on Wednesday.
Boulter beat teenage American Coco Gauff in the second round of the Australian Open warm-up and another upset looked on the cards when she matched her Japanese opponent’s power-hitting to take the opening set on Margaret Court Arena.
The second-seeded Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019, raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set but the 24-year-old Briton would not fold and had break points of her own.
But Osaka upped her return game considerably to wrestle back the momentum and level up the match before running away with the third set and sealing a 3-6 6-3 6-1 win.
Osaka will face Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in the quarter-finals after she upset fifth seed Johanna Konta 4-6 7-6 (12-10) 7-6 (7-4), with the world No 79 pushing the Briton for three-and-a-half hours.
“After I lost the first set I thought I just want to fight as hard as I can,” said Osaka, who is playing her first WTA tournament since securing her second Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows in September.
“She was playing really amazing and I thought ‘if I lose okay, but I have to give it my best shot’. I like to play long matches, and I played a short match yesterday so maybe I made myself play a long match today.”
Top two seeds Ashleigh Barty and Sofia Kenin overcame steep challenges to reach the quarter-finals of the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne and keep their Australian Open preparations on course.
World No 1 Barty showed no signs of fatigue from having played a late match on Tuesday and started in top gear against Marie Bouzkova at the Margaret Court Arena before winning 6-0 4-6 6-3. The tournament many of the players say couldnt have come at a better time than now serving as preparation ahead of the Aussie Open which serves off February 8.