In a battle for a place in the US Open semifinals, the red hot young gun Naomi Osaka takes on Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine. Osaka, who claimed the biggest title of her career earlier in the season in Indian Wells, is making her debut in a Grand Slam quarterfinal, but she will hope that it is the first of many. Tsurenko has also never before advanced so far at a Major, but at 29 years of age may not have many more chances to make a serious impact at a Slam. But who will come out on top?
Osaka and Tsurenko have met just once previously in a match that, surprisingly considering Osaka’s tender years, came back in 2014. It was contested at the ITF event in Irapuato in Mexico in the semifinals and victory went the way of the Japanese. She showed a maturity beyond her years to dispatch Tsurenko in straight sets 6-4 6-3. But in the final, despite winning the first set, Osaka fell to Holland’s Indy de Vroome 6-3 4-6 1-6 with her challenge fading badly in the decider.
Path to the quarterfinals
Osaka began her US Open campaign with a convincing 6-3 6-2 win over Germany’s Laura Siegemund before brushing aside the challenge of Julia Glushko 6-2 6-0. Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, who has posted some excellent wins this year including over Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon, was then on the receiving end of a 6-0 6-0 hammering in the round of 32. Osaka then took on New Haven champion Aryna Sabalenka and emerged a 6-3 2-6 6-4 victor from a thriller.
Tsurenko also got off to a fast start in New York, dismissing Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium for the loss of only five games in the first round. She then delivered one of the finest performances of her career to thrash second seed and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-2. Tsurenko backed that win up by finishing strongly to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-4 6-0 to reach the fourth round. There she rallied from a set down to win 6-7 7-5 6-2 against the Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova.
How do they match up?
This match will pit the formidable attacking power of Osaka against Tsurenko’s effective defence. The Japanese, though not one of the best servers on Tour, has nonetheless won an impressive 59% of the points behind her second serve so far, which is the second best record of any player in the women’s draw. She has also served 20 aces. But it is off the ground where she is most dangerous with her powerful groundstrokes having done serious damage.
She has hit 72 winners already, a number made all the more impressive by how little time she has actually spent on court after racing through the first week. Tsurenko will have to be at her best in order to live with Osaka. Sabalenka troubled her by matching her blow for blow, but that is not a strategy available to Tsurenko. But if she can hit the ball accurately and consistently and find her backhand down the line with regularity, she may have a chance.
Osaka’s victory over Sabalenka was one of the best of her career and a sign that she may be ready to fulfil her potential at Grand Slam. Even if it is a false dawn, she will almost certainly have too much for Tsurenko. With the courts playing quite slowly to the advantage of big-hitters such as Osaka unless the Ukrainian can find something truly special her tournament will end here. Expect the 20th seed to overwhelm Tsurenko from the back of the court and advance in straight sets.