Tennis: Osaka edges Muguruza in Australian Open thriller

©Kyodo News

Japanese world No. 3 Naomi Osaka survived two match points and secured a gutsy three-set win over Spain's Garbine Muguruza on Sunday to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals.

The 2019 champion Osaka was facing elimination when she fell 5-3 behind in the third set, but the 23-year-old rallied to win four straight points to survive the 10th game before reeling off three consecutive games to claim the 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 win at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.

It was the first meeting between the two former world No. 1 players and Osaka, the U.S. Open winner in 2018 and 2020, needed all her guile to outlast the 2016 French and 2017 Wimbledon champion who lost in the Australian Open final last year.

"Today I didn't really know what to expect because I've never played her before, but I just knew it was going to be tough," said Osaka. "I was a bit intimidated because I knew she was playing really well coming into this match."

Osaka accumulated 14 unforced errors to Muguruza's six in the first set, allowing the world No. 14 to take first blood, but the Japanese reined in her play in the second, reducing her errors and forcing a decider.

After trading games to open the third set, Osaka handed control of the match to her opponent in the fifth when she double-faulted on break point to give Muguruza a 3-2 lead.

But the Japanese showed great character to overcome the deficit, breaking the Spaniard twice in the final three games to claim her 19th win at the Australian Open, tying Ai Sugiyama for the most by a Japanese woman.

Osaka finished with 36 unforced errors, but said they were a symptom of her game plan.

"I probably hit a lot of unforced errors, but I think they were something I needed to do because I couldn't really give her any short balls because she'd finish it," she said.

Osaka will face Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei in the last eight. The Japanese holds a 4-1 win-loss record against the world No. 71.

In the women's doubles, the Japanese pairing of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara reached the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time after beating Hayley Carter of the United States and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-2, 6-4.