NEW YORK, Sept 3: Top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka was ousted from the US Open by Belinda Bencic while Croatian Donna Vekic erased a match point to join the Swiss 13th seed in a quarterfinal matchup.
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland reacts after defeating Naomi Osaka of Japan during the fourth round of the US Open in New York. – AP/PTI
Bencic’s 7-5, 6-4 triumph, her WTA-best sixth over a top-five foe this year, ensured 21-year-old Japanese star Osaka will fall from atop the rankings next week and won’t become the first repeat US Open winner since Serena Williams in 2014.
“The challenge cannot be bigger against Naomi,” Bencic said. “I had to be at the top of my game and I’m really pleased how well I handled my nerves at the end.”
Bencic, 22, matched her deepest career Grand Slam run from the 2014 US Open with her third victory of the year over Osaka, having also won at Indian Wells and Madrid.
“She played pretty clean. She had a specific plan she wanted to execute,” Osaka said. “I guess just being aggressive.”
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, the reigning French Open champion, will move atop the rankings next Monday after the loss by Osaka, who defends her Australian Open title in January.
“I can look at this and be very disappointed and mad, but I’m not mad about it,” Osaka said.
“I’d like to reach higher rounds. That’s definitely what I’ll aim for in Australia.”
Osaka’s exit means there will be four different women’s Grand Slam winners in a season for the third consecutive year, a first in the Open era.
Vekic, the 23rd seed, saved a match point in the second set and made her first Slam quarterfinal by rallying past German 26th seed Julia Goerges 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-3.
“I don’t even know how I won this match,” Vekic said.
“She was serving for the match. She had match point. I just kept fighting and believing I could win. It feels pretty amazing.”
Bencic owns a 2-1 career edge over Vekic from two 2014 wins but Vekic won the most recent meeting with her friend and frequent practice partner in this year’s French Open third round. – AFP