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Osaka beats Strycova to reach semifinals at Pan Pacific Open

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TOKYO — Naomi Osaka raised her game when she needed to, and it landed her a spot in the semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open.

The U.S. Open champion, who upset Serena Williams in the final in New York this month, won her ninth straight match Friday, beating Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4.

“This was my third time playing her, and each time it was very close, so I knew she was very good,” said the third-seeded Osaka, the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Osaka will next face Camila Giorgi, who advanced after Victoria Azarenka retired from their match with a gastrointestinal illness in the first set. Giorgi was leading 5-3 when the match ended.

The 20-year-old Osaka converted all three of her break points and won 80 percent of points on her first serve. She hit 26 winners and had an equal number of unforced errors.

“I feel like I adjusted,” Osaka said. “I knew that I wasn’t playing that great today, but I still adjusted and I managed to win. I never know why certain things aren’t working, but I feel like it’s my job to make sure that I do the best that I can in that situation.”

Osaka broke the eighth-seeded Strycova to take a 3-1 lead in the first set but was soon broken back. Leading 4-3, that’s when Osaka took control. She immediately earned two break points, and Strycova double-faulted on the first one to put Osaka ahead 5-3.

In the second set, double-faults again cost Strycova, who was broken at 2-2.

Osaka has been in the spotlight both on and off the court since she arrived back in Japan following her victory in New York. Friday’s match at Tachikawa Arena was sold old and Osaka’s progress up the rankings has been the focus of Japanese talk shows.

She has received congratulatory messages from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and attended the ongoing sumo tournament in Tokyo.

Also Friday, fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova defeated Alison Riske 6-1, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4). She will next play Donna Vekic, who beat second-seeded Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-4.

Tsonga rallies past qualifier to reach quarterfinals in Lyon

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LYON, France (AP) Former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past Canadian qualifier Steven Diez on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and extend his perfect record at the Lyon Open.

Tsonga, the 2017 champion, came within two points of losing but finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on his sixth match point after 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The clay-court event serves as a warmup for the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” Tsonga said. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”

Tsonga will next take on top-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat lucky loser Tristan Lamasine 7-5, 7-5.

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Top-seeded Barty withdraws from French Open warm-up event

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STRASBOURG, France (AP) Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty withdrew from the Internationaux de Strasbourg clay-court tournament on Tuesday because of a right arm injury.

Barty was replaced in the main draw by lucky loser Diana Marcinkevica.

The eighth-ranked Australian said she would not take any risk ahead of the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“I gave it my best chance, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be playing my best tennis,” Barty said. “I’m busy the next two months and I need to look after my body now.”