Naomi Osaka stood firm after a parade of champions exited the U.S. Open on Sunday, blasting her way into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-4 win over Anett Kontaveit.
On a dramatic day seven, three-times champion Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the men’s draw for hitting a ball into a line judge’s throat and 2016 women’s champion Angelique Kerber was dumped out by American Jennifer Brady.
But 2018 winner Osaka restored order in the final match at Arthur Ashe Stadium with an impressive display of power and patience against the giant-killing Estonian.
After whipping through the first set in 28 minutes, frustrations grew for Osaka as the two-time Grand Slam champion failed to convert five match points and eight out of nine break points in the second set.
Aware that Djokovic had been sent packing after losing his cool mid-match against Pablo Carreno Busta, Osaka was mindful of keeping her emotions in check.
“I didn’t really see what happened live (with Djokovic). I was sleeping because I knew I was going to play a very late match but yeah I saw it afterwards, the aftermath,” she said in an on-court interview.
“For me, that’s definitely like a warning to never do that.”
Osaka’s left thigh was heavily strapped as she continues to manage a hamstring injury but the 22-year-old moved superbly against Kontaveit to set up a clash against unseeded American Shelby Rogers.
World number 93 Rogers was courage personified as she saved four match points before knocking out twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(6).
Osaka has a 3-0 losing record to Rogers, who defeated Serena Williams last month in Lexington, but their last match came in 2017 at Charleston, when the Japanese number one was barely on the radar.
“I don’t know, it feels like such a long time ago. I have to definitely watch a couple more matches of hers,” Osaka said of Rogers.
“Yeah, I have Alzheimer’s,” she joked, after her match finished post-midnight. “I had a hard time remembering how to play Anett today. I don’t remember.
“I think (Rogers) has a great serve and she’s a good returner. But I have to study … It’s late. I don’t know what I’m saying any more.”