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US champ Osaka gains Aussie Open boost

US Open champion Naomi Osaka says she has gained a timely confidence boost ahead of the opening grand slam after moving into the Brisbane International semis.

US champ Osaka gains Aussie Open boost

US Open champion Naomi Osaka says she has gained a timely confidence boost ahead of the opening grand slam after moving into the Brisbane International semis.

NAOMI OSAKA of Japan plays a backhand in her women's singles match against Angelique Kerber of Germany during the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global at Singapore Sports Hub in Singapore.
NAOMI OSAKA of Japan plays a backhand in her women's singles match against Angelique Kerber of Germany during the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global at Singapore Sports Hub in Singapore. Picture:Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Being an Australian Open favourite may not sit well with Japan's Naomi Osaka.

But the US Open champion better get used to it after admitting she gained the confidence boost she needed before the year's opening grand slam with a stirring Brisbane International quarter-final victory.


Whether she likes it or not, world No.5 Osaka moved to second in Australian Open betting behind Serena Williams after pulling off a stunning three-set comeback win over eighth-seeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in Brisbane.

The second seed was the first woman into the Brisbane semis.

She also promptly became one of the first players tipped to lift the 2019 grand slam crown in Melbourne.

Told by media that she was considered in the mix to add to her grand slam tally later this month, the modest 21-year-old Osaka simply said: "Oh okay, that's new."

But few could argue after she held off world No.11 and US Open semi-finalist Sevastova at Pat Rafter Arena.

And Osaka certainly didn't ensure a low profile with punters after claiming the victory over the crafty Sevastova was just what she needed before Melbourne.

Shellshocked after losing the first set in 33 minutes, Osaka rattled off 12 of the final 16 games to book a semi-final clash with unseeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in Brisbane.

"I just really wanted to play this match knowing that I would have long rallies and knowing that she would be hitting tricky shots," Osaka said.

"This match was really important because I think that I can handle power players pretty well.

"But it was always harder to hit against people like her, because I don't really know what's coming next.

"So I think that this match was a good confidence booster."

Osaka's victory ensured she had made at least the semi-final round in four of her last five tournaments, extending her stellar run since becoming the first Japanese player to claim a grand slam last year.

Pressed on being considered an Australian Open contender, Osaka said: "I'm not really sure how to answer that question.

"Because, truthfully, the US Open is the first grand slam I played where I made like the quarter-finals or higher.

"For me, my main goal is to show consistency and I'm really happy with this tournament so far."

Still, it's hard to argue with Osaka's Aussie Open claims.

She conceded just five points and made one unforced error to win the second set against Sevastova 6-0 in Brisbane.

Then she dug deep when Sevastova fought back in the third.

"I feel like right now I'm really confident in myself, and I feel like the off-season training that I've been doing is really paying off," Osaka said.

AAP


AAP




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