Tennis

San Jose | Rogers downs Sakkari as Gauff triumphs over Osaka

Top seed Maria Sakkari failed to get past the starting post at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose in California on Thursday, taken out of contention by Shelby Rogers, while Aryna Sabalenka needed 3 sets to advance against lucky loser Caroline Dolehide, and Coco Gauff had to dig deep to defeat former World No 1 Naomi Osaka.

 

After the match I went and saw really cute little kids asking for autographs and, you know, they have hair like Coco, and I just thought it was really cool because they’re definitely going to have that model [in Gauff] to look up to. Naomi Osaka

Shelby, ranked 46 from the USA, took out the World No 3 from Greece, 6-1 6-3, improving her record against Sakkari to 3-0.

“Maybe it’s her level of competitiveness, or her fight that comes on the court, but she just makes me want to fight even harder,” Rogers said. “So I think we just bring the best out of each other, and it’s always a fun match when we play.”

They first met at Wimbledon in 2021, where Rogers also won in straight sets, and when they played earlier this year at the Adelaide International, it took the American 3 sets to win.

“I think there’s definitely some matchups that just favour one player a little bit more than the other,” Rogers added. “I thought I was able to use my forehand cross pretty well today, I served really well and put a lot of returns and play, which kept the pressure on her to to do more.”

Rogers fired 10 aces, with 6 coming in the second set, and only double-faulted once, while she won 76.5% of her first serve points against Sakkari, who only managed 52.2%.

She also struck 16 winners to 8 unforced errors, and needed just 72 minutes to finish off Sakkari.

In a quarter-finals on Friday, Rogers will face fellow American Amanda Anisimova, who advanced by defeating Karolina Pliskova, 3-6 7-5 6-1, on Wednesday.

Rogers is 2-0 up against Anisimova, having beaten her in the 1st-round of the Miami Open earlier this year and at the Charleston Open in 2021.

“There’s no secrets, tomorrow, we know each other’s games very, very well,” Rogers said. “We practiced quite a bit in Florida together, and know each other well, too.

“It’s not easy playing another American. The crowd is going to be awesome, so we’ll try to enjoy that.”

Meanwhile, 4th-seeded Sabalenka from Belarus battled back from the brink to post a 5-7 6-1 7-5 win over Dolehide, overcoming 20 double-faults to get the better of the American, who served for the win at 5-4 in the 3rd set.

The World No 6 had to come from 3-5 down, dialling in her hitting to break Dolehide to love, and racing to the win to avoid the 2nd-round upset after 2 hours 38 minutes, and setting a quarter-final meeting with 7th-seed Daria Kasatkina from Russia.

Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka hugged at the net after their blockbuster match in San Jose, which the American won in straight sets on Thursday night

© Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Elsewhere, in the marquee night match, Gauff, the 6th seed from the US, built a big early lead, then had to dig deep late for a 6-4 6-4 win over Osaka, the 4-time Grand Slam champion.

There wasn’t much between the two in the first few games of the match but, from her 1-2 service game Gauff went on a tear, blasting huge serves and groundstrokes, and running just about everything down that Osaka sent her way.

The 18-year-old, who reached her first Grand Slam final at the French Open in June, needed just one break of serve to seize the first set 6-4 in the block-buster encounter.

With booming serves, she then roared to a 5-1 lead in the second, but Osaka, who is unseeded in her first tournament since an opening-round exit at Roland Garros, did not go down without a fight, saving match points, all on her own serve, before Gauff was finally able to serve it out.

The American teenager ended up reeling off 10 of the next 13 games to build a 6-4, 5-1 0-40 lead when, Osaka uncorked her string of big serves that kept Gauff at bay.

The American got one more chance in that game, but hit a backhand service return into the net before the Japanese fired her first ace of the match for a game point on the way to a hold of serve.

Osaka recouped a break in the next game, and survived triple match point again in the next to cut the deficit to 5-4.

Gauff finally held her nerve after a double-fault to make it 30-30, winning the next 2 points, including a 104 mph second serve on match point to seal the win.

“Even though I was up 5-1 and 40-0, I knew I didn’t have the match in the bag yet and, obviously, she proved that,” Gauff said, who needed 8 match points to get it on. “Whenever you play Naomi she can play lights-out tennis.

“I feel, like, maybe two of the match points I had an actual shot on. Other than that, ace, ace, un-returnable, winner,” Gauff added with a laugh. “So, I wasn’t, like, too mad.

“I was just, like, eventually it will calm down and, if it doesn’t calm down, then it’s probably not my day.

It was, though, and the 6th-seeded Gauff advanced to a quarter-final clash with No 2 seed Paula Badosa of Spain.

The 18-year-old will be going for her 5th career win over a Top 5 player, with one win over a No 1 in Ash Barty at Rome in 2021, and 3 wins over No 4s, Osaka at the Australian Open in 2020, Aryna Sabalenka at Rome in 2021 and Badosa in Doha this year.

 

Bill Simons from Insidetennis.com reports that a young fan named Carlos held up a sign with bright rainbow colours that read: “Thanks For Being You, Coco and Naomi.”

Bil Simons/Insidetennis.com

Bill Simons from Insidetennis.com reports that, in the front row of the south stands, a young fan named Carlos with multiple tattoos and wearing a Lebron James jersey smiled, and held up a sign with bright rainbow colours that read: “Thanks For Being You, Coco and Naomi.”

After her win, Gauff told the crowd: “There was so much love… I could feel the energy. Really it was one of the most amazing crowds, both people were equally supported.”

Pointing to the fan’s message, she added: “I think that’s probably the best sign I’ve ever seen – thank you for that.

“As an athlete, I feel like people want us to win all the time, but seeing signs like that definitely helps a lot. It makes us feel really appreciated.”

Osaka also reacted to the fans afterwards, saying: “After the match I went and saw really cute little kids asking for autographs and, you know, they have hair like Coco, and I just thought it was really cool because they’re definitely going to have that model [in Gauff] to look up to.”

Gauff was the first player to text the Japanese after she pulled out of the 2021 French Open, and Osaka said she was not that upset by her loss to the young American, adding that she felt both rusty and sore.

“I’ve been working on not regretting things,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot the last two years about regrets and I’ve also learned that you have to keep pushing forward.

“There’s no way I’m ever going to be perfect at anything, so I have to keep learning, and I’m going to make mistakes.”

In the 4th match played on Thursday, 9th-seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia also made it through to the quarters, topping American Claire Liu, 6-2 7-5, where she will take on 3rd-seeded Ons Jabeur from Tunisia on Friday.

Coco Gauff returns a shot against Naomi Osaka at the Spartan Tennis Complex in San Jose

© Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

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