Top seed Ash Barty delivered a masterclass to dispatch Victoria Azarenka, but second favourite Naomi Osaka was outgunned by Jil Teichmann on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
I thought she played really well. I thought in the first set I was doing everything I was supposed to do, and then in the second set I feel like, and also in the third set I felt like I was a bit too defensive maybe. I felt like I learned a lot from this match today, and I felt that, if anything to take away from this, I tried my best throughout the entire match, so I can sleep at night. Naomi Osaka
Barty led a trio of Czechs into the quarter-finals, with Karolina Pliskova edging out Jessica Pegula, Barbara Krejcikova outlasting Garbiñe Muguruza, and Petra Kvitova steaming past Ons Jabeur.
They were joined by Angelique Kerber, who came from behind to beat Jelena Ostapenko, while Paula Badosa dispatched Elena Rubakina, and Belinda Bencic came through when Karolina Mucho retired.
Barty, the World No 1, was at her brilliant best against Azarenka, rattling off the first 10 games on her way to crushing the defending champion, 6-0 6-2, in just 70 minutes.
“Vika [Azarenka] has this way of bringing out the very best of me,” said Barty, who now leads their career head-to-heads 3-1. “I’ve enjoyed playing on the same side as her in doubles, we’ve had success in doubles, we’re great mates and have a lot of respect for another.
“That means we always have very good battles. I knew Vika was going to be exceptionally tough, and I felt like I played a great match throughout the whole thing.”
The match was delayed by an hour by rain, but Barty found her form and rhythm from the get-go, while Azarenka was reduced to an uncharacteristically error-strewn effort as she was pulverised by the amiable Aussie.
The out-of-sorts Belarusian, ranked 13, berated herself and hurled her racket in frustration but spared herself the indignity of a double bagel when she finally got herself on the board in the 11th game.
It was a brief stay of execution, though, with Barty completing her class with 25 match winners as she set up a quarter-final with Krejcikova in a rematch of their battle at Wimbledon.
“Sometimes a scoreline in tennis can fool you,” Barty said later. “Even though it was quite a convincing scoreline, for most part of that match, there were crucial points within each and every game.
“I felt like I was able to win a lot of those big points today.”
The victory gives Barty the chance to put a huge ranking gap on Osaka ahead of the US Open, which starts at the end of the month.
Another trophy in Cincinnati would put her almost 3,000 points ahead of the Japanese, her next closest rival.
Barty is having fun on court, winning 4 singles titles in 12 tournaments this year, including her second Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon.
“There have been times where I’ve felt like days have been long, everything is dragged out,” she said, reflecting on being away from home for months. “Fortunately, I have been busy playing a lot of matches, which has been the best distraction possible to pass time …
“We are just trying to play each match and, kind of, live each day as best we can, make sure we laugh, make sure we smile, have a good time, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Osaka is not having quite so much fun, unable to hold a set lead to Jil Teichmann in a 3-6 6-3 6-3 defeat at the hands of the 24-year old Swiss, who is just a couple of months older than the 4-times Grand Slam champion.
A left-hander, Teichmann’s variety created havoc for Osaka as the former World No 1 sprayed 41 unforced errors, while her lethal serve surrendered 7 double-faults.
“I’m shaking right now,. I knew she’s a very tough opponent,” Teichmann she said on court. “She’s a Grand Slam champion. I’m the underdog, so… my plan was to just play my game.
“I move very good, I change up everything. Directions, height, everything, and I think she didn’t really feel very comfortable about it, and I served very good.”
Osaka cruised through the first set and looked like she would make short work of the Swiss wild-card before Teichmann settled down and took the second.
Momentum swung firmly in the World No 76’s way in the decider when Osaka missed overhead smashes on back-to-back points, bringing a scream of frustration from the Japanese.
“I thought she played really well,” said Osaka afterwards. “I thought in the first set I was doing everything I was supposed to do, and then in the second set I feel like, and also in the third set I felt like I was a bit too defensive maybe.
“I felt like I learned a lot from this match today, and I felt that, if anything to take away from this, I tried my best throughout the entire match, so I can sleep at night.”
Osaka added that she struggled due to a lack of competitive matches, with the 23-year-old competing in her first event outside the Tokyo Olympics since withdrawing from the French Open in May citing mental health issues.
“I thought that, for me, I felt a bit hesitant, and normally I don’t feel that way,” she said. “Of course I put myself in this position by choosing not to play that many tournaments, so, yeah, just feeling more comfortable with it, feeling more confident in myself, as well, because I feel like there were times where I was doubting myself.”
Osaka will be looking to find her form ahead of the upcoming US Open, where she is a two-time champion.
Meanwhile, Teichmann advances to meet compatriot Bencic in the quarters, after the Olympic gold medallist took the first set off Muchova before the Czech retired with the score standing at 7-5, 2-1.
Earlier in the day, French Open champion Krejcikova set up a tasty quarter-final with Barty following her 6-1 6-7(7) 6-2 3rd-round victory over Muguruza, the No 8 seed from Spain..
In a rematch of this season’s Dubai final, which Muguruza won in straight sets, Krejcikova’s surge to the top of the game since was clear as the newest member of the Top 10 romped away with the first set.
The Spaniard battled hard to level, gritting out a close tiebreak at the end of a second, which featured no breaks of service, but Krejcikova was untroubled in the book-ending sets, sweeping through without much fuss.
Muguruza put up an incredible fight in the final game, however, saving 5 match points before the Czech closed out her win on her 6th chance after 2 hours 24 minutes of play, slamming 14 aces and winning 86 percent of her first-service points to quell the challenge from two-time Grand Slam champion, while Krejcikova saved all 5 break points she faced in the tilt.
Pliskova, the 5th seed, finally solved her nemesis Pegula, who was 4-0 up against her this year, but the Czech finally eked out the win, 6-4 7-6(5), coming from 5-0 down in the second to take it.
“Super weird, but really, I’m so happy, because I was scared to lose to the same player like five times,” Pliskova said. “So I’m really happy that somehow I find a way, although it was not a pretty match at all.
“I was proud about how I stayed and managed somehow to be always closer to her and find a way to win.”
Pliskova will meet Badosa after the Spaniard topped Kazakstan’s Rybakina, 6-2 7-6(5).
The 3rd Czech through is Kvitova, seeded 11, who set up a quarter-final meeting with Kerber after easily seeing off Jabeur, 6-1 6-2, in just over an hour of play.
Kvitova won 67 percent of points returning the Tunisian’s second serve, leading to 5 breaks in the match.
Jabeur had been on a roll of late, cracking the Top 20 of the WTA singles rankings for the first time this week, and had had pushed Kvitova to two tiebreak sets in their last meeting at Doha last year.
After upsetting Iga Swiatek on Wednesday, the Tunisian was looking to make further progress but Kvitova stopped her in her tracks, storming to victory and setting up an eye-catching quarter-final meeting with former World No 1 Kerber.
The German was outgunned by Ostapenko, the free-wheeling Latvian and 2017 Roland Garros champion, in the early stages of their meeting, who ultimately tallied 49 frequently breathtaking winners to Kerber’s 22, but the former World No 1 played the scoreboard impeccably.
A watertight second set, in which she committed just 2 unforced errors, enabled her to take the steam out of Ostapenko’s momentum and, from 1-3 down in the third, Kerber managed to weather her opponent’s wild oscillations and respond with aggression of her own to win, 4-6 6-2 7-5.