Tennis

Osaka feels close to another Grand Slam title

Japanese reaches semis, where she meets Williams' conqueror Pliskova

Japan's Naomi Osaka said she felt another Grand Slam title was close after routing an injured Elina Svitolina to reach the Australian Open semi-finals yesterday.

The US Open champion cruised past the Ukrainian sixth seed 6-4, 6-1 and said she was hungry for more success ahead of a final-four clash with Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who saved four match-points before defeating Serena Williams 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

Osaka, 21, seeded fourth this year, denied the pressure created by her breakthrough win last year was getting to her.

"I know that a few months ago I would have given anything to be in the semi-finals of a Slam," she said.

"But it's this weird feeling of, like, you want to do the next big thing. Especially now that I won a Grand Slam, I feel like I want to win another one. I'm so close and I just want to keep going."

The win put Osaka into her second straight Grand Slam semi-final. She is the first Japanese woman in the final four at Melbourne Park since Kimiko Date in 1994.

Svitolina received treatment for a neck and shoulder injury in the second set and looked a shadow of the player that won the WTA Finals in Singapore last October.

Meanwhile, Williams denied choking after falling victim to one of the greatest comebacks yesterday, saying she was powerless as Czech foe Karolina Pliskova "just went crazy" to storm into the semi-finals.

Williams, 37, had Pliskova on the rack serving at 5-1 in the third set, but the seventh seed fended off four match-points to bounce back and end the American's latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam.

"I can't say that I choked on those match-points," said Williams. "She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots."

An exhausted Pliskova said after the 2hr 10min epic: "My mind was in the locker room. I wasn't playing very well in the third set but I thought let's try, this game (will make it) 5-2. She got a little bit shaky in the end so I took my chances and I won."

On meeting Osaka next, Pliskova said: "She's dangerous but nobody is more dangerous than Serena." - AFP

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