There may have been many goals and aspirations that Naomi Osaka had as she entered the quarterfinals at the Madrid Open. She naturally wanted to do well, and who doesn't? She didn't want to lose her number one ranking and she wanted to win over opponents who she'd never defeated as much as they did with her.
She turns around and lands in the quarterfinal with Belinda Bencic. She lost to her at Indian Wells of this year and wanted badly to win this one. Bencic ranked no. 18 has experienced an elevated career of winning over better-ranked players than herself.
She's already defeated Petra Kvitova in Dubai winning the title and in the same tournament won over Aryna Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep. Bencic has become a threat to the WTA and Osaka knew of this, raising her nervousness just another pitch higher.
But the opening set went well for Osaka as she led 3 to 1. Bencic started getting her game together being more aggressive and keeping Osaka back to the baseline. The young Swiss added two more games to even up the score at 3-all.
But it was Osaka who prevailed closing out the first set 6-3 in 35 minutes. She admitted that she was confident in the opening set but the second set she started making unforced errors which disturbed her focus and determination.
This was obvious, for she had become distracted and lost the second set 2-6. There were times in the deciding set that Osaka stayed focused, produced good shots and strategies to lead 5-4. The young Japanese almost had the match in her hands then Bencic proved the more aggressive and fluid player.
She had no impinging thoughts swirling but to play well and she did. She clipped the baselines, moved in to put away winners and poured out six straight games to win the match 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. She took down the world number 1 and the first time she's ever made it to the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Osaka maybe came in with too many pre-conceived notions of what the match should be as to how it was going and all she could think about was her number one status being dissolved by players that were winning. Then there were the mistakes she was making that shouldn't have been for a number one player in the world.
She had the tendency to dwell on the bad situations but did give herself credit saying at a post-match press conference that "I wanted to win the Australian Open and the US Open, but for me, I wanted to win this match more because she beat me already before and I just didn't want to lose twice in a row."
Naomi Osaka didn't win over Bencic but was relieved to know that she did feel she served well even in the first match, coming in still recuperating from an abdominal injury in Stuttgart. Osaka had a goal of playing the French Open as no.
1 player in the world but was told that if Halep wins the Madrid title, that number one ranking will go to the Romanian. The match is over and it's time to think about entering the Italian Open in Rome. Osaka can look back at it all and think about where she was last season.
She smiled as the regrets and madness started to lessen and she said: "Compared to last year, this is definitely an upgrade."