News & Media

Osaka credits intervention for QF comeback

3 January 2019, by with AAP

US Open champion Naomi Osaka is proving the woman to beat at Brisbane International 2019, overcoming a slow start to race home against crafty eighth seed Anastasija Sevastova in the quarter-finals.

Favoured to clinch the title after defending champion and top seed Elina Svitolina’s depature overnight, the Japanese No.2 seed defeated the Latvian 3-6 6-0 6-4 on Thursday afternoon.

And it was some timely coach’s advice which may have sparked Osaka into action.

The second seed credited a new-found self-belief for pulling off a comeback quarter-final win, one which she admitted she wouldn’t have been able to achieve just six months ago.

World No.11 Sevastova had won both prior clashes with Osaka in 2018.

And the 28-year-old looked like making it three straight when she jumped to a 2-0 lead before claiming the first set in 33 minutes.

Enter Osaka’s coach Sascha Bajin.

Called over by a concerned Osaka ahead of the second set, Bajin’s calming influence first settled her down – then clearly fired her up.

The 21-year-old came out swinging, claiming the second set in just 20 minutes before overcoming late resistance from the US Open semi-finalist.

“He (Bajin) basically said not to be so worried. It was just acknowledging that she was playing really good, and there was nothing that I could really do about that,” Osaka said.

“And that I had to wait for my chance, and I think that’s what I did really well in the second set.”

Osaka conceded just five points in the second set as she powered her way to a turnaround win that would have no doubt made rivals sit up and take notice ahead of the Australian Open.

Japan’s first Grand Slam winner had enjoyed a stellar 2018, rising from world No.68 to earn a season-ending top five ranking.

She also earned plenty of self-belief.

“Maybe six months ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that (come back),” Osaka said.

“I feel like right now I’m really confident in myself … so I’m not that scared or threatened.

“I’m not sure if I would have had the same feeling six months ago – but six months ago I hadn’t won the US Open.

“But now I sort of know what could potentially come next.”

Many would be predicting a second Grand Slam may be next after the stunning turnaround that ensured Osaka has made at least the semi-finals in four of her past five tournaments.

Osaka wasn’t so sure when asked about Melbourne favouritism.

“You guys (media) might pick me as a (Australian Open) favourite but I don’t know, there’s so many other players,” she smiled.

And there’s added history on the line in Brisbane.

Should she go all the way to the title Osaka would surpass Kimiko Date-Krumm‘s highest ranking to be come the first Japanese player to reach No.3.

Osaka awaits the winner of Thursday night’s clash between Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko and Estonian Anett Kontaveit.