Doha: Naomi Osaka fails to set up Iga Swiatek showdown after losing tight QF match

In the end, there won't be an Osaka and Swiatek meeting in Doha.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Doha: Naomi Osaka fails to set up Iga Swiatek showdown after losing tight QF match
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Naomi Osaka fell just short of making her first WTA semifinal in nearly two years and setting up a Doha meeting against Iga Swiatek.

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, lost in tight two sets to Karolina Pliskova as the Czech former world No. 1 edged out the Japanese 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) in the Doha quarterfinal. Before Osaka and Pliskova took to the court, No. 1 seed Swiatek safely progressed into the semifinal as the Pole ousted Victoria Azarenka 6-4 6-0. 

Had Osaka defeated Pliskova, she would have made her first WTA semifinal since 2022 Miami. That year, Osaka made the Miami final before Swiatek handed her a 6-4 6-0 defeat. They haven't played since. 

Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek
Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman
 

Against Pliskova, Osaka made a positive start, claiming an early 2-0 lead. But Osaka's lead was short-lived as Pliskova got the break back in the third game, and as no more breaks were seen in the first set, the opener went into a tie-break, where the Czech realized her second set point to win a very tight first set.

The second set started in the same way as the first set as Osaka had a 2-0 lead before Pliskova got the break back shortly after in the fourth game. Later in the set, Osaka saved a match point in the 10th game and two more match points in the 12th game to force another tie-break. In the second-set tie-break, Osaka recovered from a 0-3 deficit to take a 4-3 lead - but when she and Pliskova were tied to five points apiece - the Czech managed to win the next two points and complete a two-set win. 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Osaka loses to Pliskova, who plays next against Swiatek 

In the opening two games of the Swiatek and Azarenka match, the two players traded breaks as the Pole broke the Belarusian in the opening game before getting broken instantly in the second game. Six games later, Swiatek saved two break points in the eighth game before breaking Azarenka in the following game for a 5-4 lead. In the 10th game, Swiatek sealed the opening set after converting her first set point.

After losing the first set in a crushing way, Azarenka's game collapsed as Swiatek won the second set without a lost game to complete a two-set win. After the win, Swiatek showed her class and spoke very highly of two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka.

“I’m really happy. Vika is a great champion. I feel like she’s been at the top in terms of the best players I watched when I was younger. I’m proud I can compete on the same court and play against Victoria and win. It’s pretty crazy," Swiatek said after beating Azarenka.

Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

On Friday, Swiatek will be playing against Pliskova for the fourth time. Going into the match, Swiatek has a 3-0 head-to-head against Pliskova. 

“Both of these players I haven’t played in a while. It’s not gonna be easy. They’re both heavy hitters with great serves. For sure I’ll have to catch up on the tactics. It doesn’t matter who I’m gonna play, I’m just going to try to do my job and that’s all," Swiatek said when asked about facing either Osaka or Pliskova.

Elena Rybakina sees off Leylah Fernandez

Rybakina also handled the business on Thursday, ousting 2021 US Open finalist Fernandez 6-4 6-2. Although Rybakina ended up sealing a straight-set win over Fernandez, it wasn't that easy for the third-seeded Kazakh.

Fernandez, a former world No. 13, came out firing as she claimed breaks in the second and fifth games for a 4-1 break. After falling down by a double break, Rybakina finally started playing her tennis and that resulted in the Kazakh earning breaks in the sixth, eighth and 10th games and winning five games in a row to overturn the deficit and win the first set.

Through the opening four games of the second set, the two players were tied to two games apiece before Rybakina claimed back-to-back breaks in the sixth and eighth games to win the next four games and complete a straight-set win.

"She's a very good player, lefty, tricky one. Didn't start the match that well, but in the end found my way in the first set and happy to win in two," Rybakina said after beating Fernandez.

"Today was quite windy compared other days. I didn't start with my serve well, and it was not easy to adjust. But .. I found my way, and also started to return and be better."

Elena Rybakina and Leylah Fernandez
Elena Rybakina and Leylah Fernandez© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

For a place in the Doha final, Rybakina will be playing against good friend Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated Danielle Collins 7-5 6-4. When Rybakina, 24, and 32-year-old Pavlyuchenkova meet on Friday, it will be their second meeting. In their first meeting, Pavlyuchenkova edged out Rybakina 6-7 (2) 6-2 9-7 in the 2021 French Open quarterfinal.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a great match to see. We know each other very well on the court and off the court. Hopefully I can recover and show some great tennis," Rybakina said of facing Pavlyuchenkova.

Naomi Osaka Iga Swiatek
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