US Open: Naomi Osaka’s title defense ended by teen Leylah Fernandez

Naomi Osaka smashed her racket twice to the ground as she lost the second set tie-break
Place: Flushing Meadows, New York Dated: August 30-September 12
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Naomi Osaka’s US Open title defense is over as she fell in the third round to a stunning performance from Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez.

Fernandez, 18, capitalized as Osaka lost his temper to clinch a remarkable 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory.

Osaka was shattered as she served for the game in the second set, and a bad tie-break gave Fernandez the initiative under the New York lights.

The teenager couldn’t contain her smile as she scored a fantastic victory.

Osaka never regained her composure after being shattered in the second set, twice throwing her racquet to the ground as the tie-break flew from her.

Fernandez broke her in the first game of the third set and used his powerful forehand to fight his way to victory.

She will face another Grand Slam champion in Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.

“From the start I knew I was capable of winning,” Fernandez said.

“I wasn’t focusing on Naomi, I was just focusing on what I needed to do. The crowd made a huge difference – they helped me win.”

Fernandez keeps his cool – as Osaka loses his

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka won the US Open in 2018 and 2020, defeating Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka respectively

Osaka has had a tough last few months and took an eight-week hiatus to protect his sanity after speaking openly about his struggles with depression.

She had little time on the pitch, having played just five games in the past two months, and was allowed to advance to the third round in New York after her opponent retired.

For the first set and for the majority of the second, Osaka seemed in control, despite Fernandez matching it with his forehand and powerful serve.

Serving for the game at 6-5, Osaka lost momentum, giving Fernandez a crucial break as she sent a long forehand.

The tie-break quickly moved away from the two-time US Open champion, Osaka pointing to herself and the pitch as the crowd gathered behind her opponent.

World No.70 Fernandez was a stark contrast to Osaka, celebrating his strong shooting game and pumping the air as a misfire on the Osaka line sent the game to a decider.

Osaka went through the third set changes with a towel over her head, trying to regain her composure, but her frustration was still evident as she took an early break and had to avoid two break points to avoid losing 3- 0.

While she showed glimpses of her best form, she couldn’t force a breaking point on service from Fernandez, the teenager feeding off the crowd.

Osaka was booed as she kept Fernandez waiting with the teenager at 30-0 and serving for the game, but the Canadian responded with a shot on goal to collect three match points. She only needed one, turning around and celebrating as Osaka sent a wide cross forehand.

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Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Just hours after 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz knocked out Stefanos Tsitsipas, another teenage boy delighted Arthur Ashe stadium with a daring and composed performance.

A close, high-quality game seemed to be headed for Osaka when she came out on top to serve for a straight set victory at 6-5. But at that point, the defending champion’s forehand abandoned her and her frustration boiled over.

Osaka is running out of games – after taking a hiatus from the sport to preserve her sanity – but has started to look menacing again after losing her serve early in the deciding set.

But it turned out it was too late. Fernandez’s left-handed serve had caused problems for Osaka all night long, and helped by some hard-hitting returns, the Canadian did not pass up her opportunity.

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Halep overcomes the “madman in the field”

Simona halep
Simona Halep’s two Grand Slam victories came at Roland Garros in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019

12th Romanian seed Simona halep rediscovered some of her pre-calf injury form with a 7-6 (13-11) 4-6 6-3 win over Elena Rybakina of Kazhakstan.

Playing with his right thigh tightly tied, Halep saved three set points in the first set tie-break and had to defend himself from a break in each set.

“Before the game I was super stressed and said [her coach] Darren Cahill my forehand is lost. So I can’t feel it anymore, ”Halep said.

“I had emotions. I was nervous. And I was a little crazy on the pitch, too, the frustrations made me a little bit crazy.

“But I fought, and this victory gives me a lot of confidence that my game is coming back and also the fighting spirit is there.”

She will face the fifth seed Elina Svitolina then after the Ukrainian defeated Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-4 6-2.

Garbine Muguruza earlier won the Battle of the Grand Slam Champions by beating Victoria Azarenka to reach the fourth round.

Both players have won Grand Slam titles and are former world number ones, but it was Spaniard Muguruza who edged Belarusian Azarenka 6-4 3-6 6-2.

This is the first time that Muguruza, who will play the French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova then reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.

Roland Garros champion Krejcikova continued her stunning season with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova.

Belgian Elise mertens beat Tunisian Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur 6-3 7-5 to set up a meeting with second seed Aryna Sabalenka or home favorite Danielle Collins.

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