World number three Stephens beat fellow American Madison Keys in the final in NY previous year to win the first grand slam of her career.
She made her way into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Elise Mertens on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday night that was a bit more hard than the score indicated, but it was a solid effort.
Osaka will face either 14th-seeded Madison Keys or No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro in the first major semifinal appearance for a Japanese woman since Date reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1996.
“Just like I always say: Get your racket on it. Make a play on the ball”.
She finished the match with 13 aces and will take on Anastasija Sevastova for a place in the final after the 19th-seeded Latvian toppled defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3. It makes you try to do too much if you’re practicing trick shots.
Asked what he thinks he needs to improve in his game moving forward, the three-time US Open champion said: “I think a little bit the speed of my cross-court”.
After taking a 4-1 lead in the second set, Sevastova admitted that memories of last year’s quarter-final against Stephens flashed across her mind. Thiem is a top-10 player himself (he’s now ranked No. 9), a star in his own right who some consider to be the heir apparent to Nadal. “It was just really hot”, said Stephens, who also revealed that she’s been suffering from a “bad sinus infection” since Monday.
“It was an awesome journey this three, four years”, Sevastova told reporters after the match, a repeat of last month’s Rogers Cup semi which Stephens won in straight sets.
Stephens, one of the best defenders in the game, squandered all seven break-point chances in the first set, missing out a chance for early momentum during a lengthy third game of the match.
She has had her best results in her second career, particularly in NY, where she has now reached the quarter-finals twice and the semi-finals once in the last three years.
Osaka, seeded 20, came back from a break down in the final set to take the tie on a fourth match point when Sabalenka served up an eighth double fault.
That last comment brought laughter from the assembled reporters, given Sevastova’s tendency to play drop shots and vary her angle of attack on a regular basis.
“When you don’t play big points well, the match can get away from you”, Stephens said.
‘And obviously defending a title is very hard, very difficult.
“There is still semi-finals”, she said. Now that this tournament is over, my focus is just getting back home and being with her. …
“I can be proud of a lot of the things that happened the last couple, the matches that I played, so I’m not going to dwell on it”. But now I wish him the title the most, that’s for sure.