Third seed Naomi Osaka survived another testing three-setter to beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-3 3-6 6-3 on Friday, setting up a semi-final clash with defending champion Karolina Pliskova at the Brisbane International.
It was Osaka’s third consecutive three-setter in the tournament and the former world number one eventually prevailed in two hours to reach the semi-finals for the second year in a row at the Pat Rafter Arena.
As a result, the 22-year-old will leapfrog Simona Halep to rise to third in the singles rankings as the Japanese prepares to defend her Australian Open crown later this month.
“I tried to defend in my U.S. Open title and that didn’t work out so well, so I hope it’s better for me this time around,” Osaka said in a post-match interview after her 14th consecutive win since her last-16 exit at Flushing Meadows.
After both players won a set each, the opening game of the third set — which lasted 11 minutes — proved to be the turning point when Osaka saved three break points to take the lead.
Osaka then broke again at 3-2 to take control of the match, bringing up three match points with only her fourth ace of the contest before an unforced error from Bertens gave her the win.
Second seed Pliskova overcame a difficult opening set to beat American Alison Riske 7-6(6) 6-3 in one hour and 55 minutes.
The Czech improved her WTA head-to-head record to 7-0 against Riske but was forced to save two set points in a tight first set.
After clinching the opener in a tiebreak, Pliskova switched gears to move ahead early in the second set before sealing victory at the third opportunity by securing another service break.
Pliskova’s most recent meeting with Osaka ended in a heartbreaking defeat in Australian Open semi-finals last year.
“Last time we played in Melbourne and it was pretty close, all the matches are always one break in each set,” Pliskova said.
“There’s not many chances because she can serve well, I can serve well, so it’s going to be about couple points.”
In the other quarter-final matches, fifth seed Petra Kvitova beat giant killer Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-2 while American Madison Keys beat compatriot Danielle Collins 6-4 6-1 in just 66 minutes.