June 20, 2024
Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka’s return to tennis continues to hit stumbling blocks as the four-time Grand Slam winner was dumped out of the Madrid Open at the second-round stage following a gruelling battle with 15th seed Liudmila Samsonova. Osaka battled back from a set down to level things up but Samsonova, ending a four-match losing streak, won through in the decider.

Naomi Osaka is out of the Madrid Open after a second-round defeat to 15th seed Liudmila Samsonova.
Osaka, continuing her comeback on the women’s tour, showed good fighting spirit to come back from a humbling first set to force a decider but fell just short as Samsonova demonstrated impressive resolve to come through 6-2 4-6 7-5 in two hours 21 minutes, snapping a four-match winless run.
A nervy start from Osaka saw the Japanese on the back foot and she couldn’t save a second break point as she went behind on serve in the opening game.

An instant response saw her get break point herself, but Samsonova stood firm and held before breaking again for a 3-0 lead.
The Russian produced an immaculate service game to hold to love before forcing two more break points with Osaka at risk of being overrun on the Manolo Santana court.

She managed to save both break points to finally get on the board with a less-than-comfortable hold, but while she also won her next service game, it came between two more love holds from Samsonova to take the set.

With an impressive 93% of her first serve points won in the opener, the 25-year-old kept up her momentum at the start of the second, breaking to love before holding to open up another early lead in the set.
Osaka then produced a fine hold that wasn’t in keeping with the rest of her display up until that point and followed that up by carving out three break points – of which Samsonova could only save one.

Naomi Osaka looked to take a first lead in the set but was broken again before another Samsonova hold left her within sight of the finish line at 4-2.
But having not won a match since February, a potentially nervous Samsonova began to rack up unforced errors and soon found herself back level as Osaka was able to hold and break for 4-4.

Now in the ascendancy, Osaka held to love and all of a sudden the match was level as she won a fourth game in a row, claiming break and set point at the third time of asking as Samsonova’s serve crumbled.
The Japanese star was able to avoid losing her serve for the third set on the trot as she held to lead for the first time in the match.

Samsonova sought to re-establish her early dominance and was able to seize the momentum with a hold and break, but Osaka yanked it right back with a break of her own, before the two exchanged love holds to leave the deciding set finely poised at 3-3.
A lengthy and potentially decisive next game saw Osaka let out a relieved and defiant roar as she fended off break point to hold and keep the match on serve.
She was forced to save break point again in her next service game but facing another, it was to be third time lucky for Samsonova who finally capitalised for a 6-5 lead.
With two match points on serve, she needed just one and an ace sent Osaka packing after an intense battle.
Elsewhere, there was a shock as Elina Svitolina went down 6-3 7-5 to Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Maria Sakkari eased past Donna Vekic 6-3 6-2.
Victoria Azarenka impressed with a 6-3 6-1 win over Tatjana Maria but things were not so straightforward for Madison Keys who needed two tie-breaks to finally overcome Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6(3) 7-6(6).
Emma Navarro ruthlessly dispatched Nadia Podoroska 6-2 6-1 and it was a similar story for Jelena Ostapenko in her comprehensive 6-3 6-1 win over Jessica Bouzas Maneiro.
Elsewhere in Madrid on Thursday, Coco Gauff wrapped up a resounding 6-0 6-0 victory over Arantxa Rus within 51 minutes of play.
Gauff, world No. 3, secured the first double bagel of her career as her clay preparations continue ahead of the French Open in May.

In an imperious display, Gauff dispatched 14 winners, won six out of seven break points and won an impressive 73% of service points.
The 20-year-old, who is looking to add to her one clay title she picked up at the Emilia-Romagna Open in 2021, wrapped up a dominant first set within 23 minutes, allowing Rus just eight points in the process.

Gauff was similarly assertive in the second set, with Rus chalking up just 10 points in 29 minutes. She became the third player in the women’s draw to record a 6-0 6-0 main-draw win at the Madrid Open. Victoria Azarenka and Simona Halep also achieved the feat in 2011 and 2019 respectively.
She also became the youngest player to win a match without dropping a set since world No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s victory over Karolina Pliskova in Roma 2021.

The 2023 US Open winner swiftly left the court after her victory, saying she was trying to “get off the court quickly” because “everyone is waiting for Rafa.”

The victory was the perfect response by Gauff put to bed any pre-Gland Slam doubts after she was defeated 3-6 6-4 7-6 (6) by world No. 27 Marta Kostyuk in Stuttgart last week.

The American progresses to the final 32 to face Dayana Yastremka. Gauff could rise to world No. 2 in Madrid ahead of the French major, if Aryna Sabalenka does not reach the final.

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