Heading to Osaka with five straight losses, the 4th seed Angelique Kerber found the rhythm at Toray Pan Pacific Open, beating the 5th seed Madison Keys 6-4, 4-6, 2-1 when the American had to retire. It was a high-quality encounter while the American was able to play on that level, starting to struggle and having to retire in the only match played on Friday as the rain ruined the action and set packed Saturday that saw five singles encounters.
The top seed and hometown favorite Naomi Osaka ousted Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 46 minutes for the first semi-final since Stuttgart in April! Putintseva claimed all three wins over the Japanese but stood no chance today despite scoring four breaks, giving serve away six times from seven break chances offered to Naomi and finishing on the losing side despite a great effort in the closing stages of both sets.
The Japanese barely put a foot wrong in the first six games, producing one comfortable hold after another and taking all the power off her opponent to break her in games two and six for a 5-1 advantage. Down but not beaten, Yulia bounced back with a break in game seven, fending off two set points on the return at 3-5 to grab another break and extend the set before Osaka earned another break to take it 6-4.
They traded breaks in opening two games of set number two before Osaka took a 3-1 lead, wasting match points in games eight and nine to keep Putintseva in, having to break the Kazakh once again in game ten to cross the finish line and reach the semis.
The 9th seed Elise Mertens took down Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-3 in swift an hour and 12 minutes, dropping 14 points in nine service games and getting broken twice. Giorgio needed more than that to stay competitive, losing half of the points in her games and allowing Mertens to break her five times and forge the crucial advantage.
The Belgian broke three times in a row in the opener, failing to bring the set home in the eighth game before fixing the error two games later for a 6-4. Giorgi was powerless on the return in set number two, losing serve in games five and nine to propel Mertens into the second semi-final of the season.
In their first clash since 2016, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Misaki Doi 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and 27 minutes, keeping everything under control in her games after giving away 11 points in eight service games, playing against only one break point.
Doi was in the final last week and had some good wins here in Osaka before today's clash where she left out of steam completely, losing more than half of the points in her games and getting broken five times to propel the Russian through.