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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW YORK: Naomi Osaka spiked her racket after one errant forehand late in the second set at the US Open, then flung it the length of the baseline after a missed backhand return ceded that tiebreaker.
Sometimes, that’s the sort of reaction it takes to right things for Osaka. And, perhaps surprisingly, she needed whatever push she could get in Friday’s third-round match.
Facing an opponent competing in just her second major tournament, two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka eventually figured out a way to turn a tight one into a runaway and beat 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2 by claiming the final five games at Flushing Meadows.
“While I was playing, honestly, I was cursing myself out,” Osaka said during an on-court interview, “so you wouldn’t want to know what I was saying.”
After taking things out on her racket, Osaka sat with a white towel draped over head during a changeover.
“It’s what I do in times of extreme anger and frustration,” she said.
Still, she improved to 7-0 since tennis resumed after a hiatus of more than five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another past US Open champion moving into the fourth round Friday was 2016 titlist Angelique Kerber, who defeated 20-year-old American Ann Li 6-3, 6-4. Kerber’s next opponent is another American, 28th-seeded Jennifer Brady, a 6-3, 6-3 winner against Caroline Garcia.
In the previous round, Garcia upset top-seeded Karolina Pliskova.
Next up for Osaka will be big hitter Anett Kontaveit, an Estonian seeded 14th. She had a much easier time in a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 24 Magda Linette.
In the day’s last women’s match, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova beat 63rd-ranked American Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-3. She’ll face another American, 93rd-ranked Shelby Rogers, in the next round.
With shadows creeping across the Arthur Ashe Stadium court in the early afternoon, the 137th-ranked Kostyuk certainly had her chances to pull off a significant surprise.
The key moment: Kostyuk held five break points that could have given her a 3-1 lead in the final set.
“A turning point,” Osaka would say later.
She fended off every one of those and held to 2-all, beginning her match-closing run.
“I’m kind of scared how she’s going to be in the future,” said Osaka, who played with tape wrapping her left hamstring, which has been a problem since last week. “She has no fear.”
Kostyuk had her own issues: She twice took a medical timeout to have a trainer tape her right ankle.
But she also was able to control the outcomes of points for stretches, winning 19 of the 23 points when she went to the net. The Ukrainian teen also delivered more winners than Osaka, 36-30, over the match’s 2 1/2 hours.
“I guess I would say the thing that made me most displeased was probably the decisions that I was making and the fact that I started becoming way too passive,” Osaka said, “and hoping that she would, you know, make an unforced error.”
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