Caroline Wozniacki is one match away from making back-to-back finals in Beijing and brings an unbeaten record against world no. 4 Naomi Osaka into Saturday’s semifinals.
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Naomi Osaka is on an eight-match winning streak, but has never beaten Caroline Wozniacki – can she get her first win over the Dane in Saturday’s China Open semifinals?
Osaka has every reason to come into Saturday’s Beijing semifinal clash feeling extremely good about herself, after digging deep to record a brilliant win over Bianca Andreescu. In the first ever meeting between the two most recent US Open champions, Osaka became the first top-10 player to beat Andreescu and ended the Canadian’s 17-match winning streak, becoming the first player to beat her in a completed match since Sofia Kenin did so at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel at the beginning of March.
It did not come easy. Andreescu’s return of serve wreaked absolute havoc on Osaka’s serve for much of the match, despite the fact that Osaka was not serving at all badly. The Japanese-Haitian player struggled to win any points behind her second serve in the first set, claiming just five of 16, and even her first serve was often not enough as Andreescu raced to a 5-1 lead with some sizzling tennis.
Serving for the first set at 5-2, Andreescu made a rare unforced error and Osaka took advantage, reeling off three games to level at 5-5, but the Canadian used a sharp-angled forehand brilliantly to work Osaka off the court in the next game, broke Osaka and served the set out at the third time of asking before breaking in a lengthy game to lead 2-1 in the second.
Osaka trailed 1-3, but started to play better, changing her approach and demonstrating her willingness to hang in long rallies with Andreescu. She broke back for 3-3 as Andreescu double-faulted on break point for the second time in the match, and played a tremendous return game including a reflex backhand winner down the line and a defensive lob winner to break the Canadian, serving out the set to level. The Australian Open champion once more trailed by a break in the decider, but again she played the smarter, more solid tennis throughout, retrieving the break before striking a surprise backhand winner herself to break and lead 5-4.
Serving out the match was not simple, as Osaka was unable to convert her first two match points and found herself down break point, only to be let off the hook with a rare return miss from Andreescu. The key moment came when Andreescu kicked a ball up high to Osaka’s backhand, trying to use her variety to disrupt the Japanaese-Haitian player, only for Osaka to hit a clean jumping backhand winner down the line to set up a third match point – and this time, she made no mistake, closing out the 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory in two hours and 17 minutes.
The win put Osaka over the line to qualify for the WTA Finals Shenzhen, but more significantly perhaps, it was a big statement that the world no. 4 is ready to be a force at the end of the season. With the Osaka title already in her pocket, she has now defended her semifinal points from last year’s China Open, has kept Andreescu from overtaking her in the rankings, and reminded everybody that she’s still the player who won two of the last five Grand Slams. It was a good day’s work.
Osaka has no time to rest on her laurels, however, because if she is to reach the China Open final for the first time, she will have to find a way to do something she’s never done before – beat Caroline Wozniacki.
Let’s be honest, nobody saw Wozniacki getting back to the China Open final. The Dane, champion in Beijing in 2010, won her second title here last year with victories over Belinda Bencic, Wang Qiang and Anastasija Sevastova, but from being ranked world no. 2 at the time is now on the brink of falling out of the top 20. Wozniacki revealed late in 2018 that she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and health problems have really been a major factor in her season. Failing to defend her Australian Open title when she lost in the third round to Maria Sharapova, Wozniacki caught a small cold early in the season and it became a real problem for her. After going 5-4 in the first three months of the season, she brightened with a run to the Volvo Car Open final in Charleston, but she was unable to get a win on European clay. She won back-to-back matches in both tournaments she played on grass, but was unable to make much of an impact on American hard courts and in some ways exceeded expectations by making the third round of the US Open, where she lost to Andreescu.
Beaten by Su-Wei Hsieh in the first round in Wuhan last week, Wozniacki’s chances for a successful title defense were not rated highly – but here she is, one win away from becoming the third woman to reach back-to-back finals at the China Open. She has been a little fortunate in her opponents, but has also played impressively to beat Christina McHale, Lauren Davis, Katerina Siniakova and, in the quarterfinals, Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. Like Osaka, Wozniacki came back from a break down in two sets in the quarterfinals – but unlike Osaka, managed to get the win in straights, beating Kasatkina 6-3, 7-6(5).
‘I’ve always had tough matches against her,’ Wozniacki said. ‘She’s a good player, very talented, mixes up the pace. I just tried to stay focused. I think we both played some great points, some great rallies. I was happy to finish it off in two sets, finish it off in the tiebreaker.
‘I feel like I play very well here. It suits my game.’
This will be the third meeting between Osaka and Wozniacki, and both previous clashes have gone Wozniacki’s way in straight sets: In the Tokyo final in 2016, and in Eastbourne in 2017. Osaka is a much better player on hard courts than she is on grass, and a much better player generally than she was three years ago, however – and she has such an advantage in explosiveness over Wozniacki, who has had such a poor and difficult season, that it’s hard not to see this as a big opportunity for Osaka to overturn that winless record against the Dane and extend her winning streak to 11 matches by making the Beijing final.
Osaka vs Wozniacki China Open tennis is live from Beijing on Saturday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST
Osaka vs Wozniacki tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Osaka get her first win over Wozniacki in the China Open semifinals?
Caroline Wozniacki is one match away from making back-to-back finals in Beijing and brings an unbeaten record against world no….
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