Six years after her surprising title run, unseeded Lesia Tsurenko came back to the semifinals in Brisbane. The Ukrainian stormed back from a 3-5 deficit and saved two set points in the opening set to beat Anett Kontaveit 7-5 6-3.
Tsurenko assured a showdown with US Open champion Naomi Osaka, after the Us Open champion overcame a slow start to defeat the Latvian Anastasia Sevastova 3-6 6-0 6-4. In the opening set Kontaveit, who beat Tsurenko en route to her sole career title at 2017 ‘s-Hertogenbosch, failed to seal a smash while Tsurenko drilled a sizzling backhand winner to manufacture a chance that led to her breaking and taking the set.
The world No.27 immediately broke again to take the lead in the second set and saved three break back chances in a hard-fought fifth game that required eight deuces. Kontaveit, burdened by 30 errors, lost her serve again and Tsurenko cruised towards the 19th Top 20 victory.
She finished the match with 34 winners to 23 unforced errors and a perfect break point conversion rate (four for four) as she completed the 120th career victory. Making her fourth main draw appearance in Brisbane, having celebrated over Buzarnescu and Birrell her first back-to-back wins since last year’s US Open QF run, Tsurenko can move to a career-high No.24 by reaching the semifinals, and No.23 by lifting the title.
“Some of the wins last year gave me the confidence that I can beat top players and now I feel more and more confident and for sure I’ll keep this mindset for the Australian Open,” said Tsurenko, who lost both the previous clashes against Naomi Osaka.
The Japanese defeated Osaka for the second time in four meetings, having lost both prior encounters in 2018. Sevastova, bidding for her fourth top-5 victory, jumped to a 2-0 lead before claiming the first set in 33 minutes.
Osaka received some comforting words from coach Sascha Bajin and managed to turn the match on its head. “I was just trying to stay calm, trying to tell myself that she is one of the best players in the world so I just have to stay in there and hopefully get a chance,” Osaka said of her post first-set chat to her coach.
“I think I did that and and so I tried to roll with it.” She needed 20 minutes to claim the second set and cruised to a decisive 3-1 lead in the third to complete the 82th main draw career win. In her main draw debut in Brisbane, the No.2 seed Osaka received a first-round bye and fired nine aces against qualifier Aiava in her debut match.
Ranked No.5 entering the new season, she celebrated her 17th Top-20 win, nine of which were posted last season. The youngest of the quarterfinalists could become the first Japanese player (man or
woman) to reach No.3 in the rankings by winning the title surpassing Kimiko Date-Krumm‘s highest ranking.