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Tsurenko upsets Osaka to reach Brisbane final

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BRISBANE, Australia — She’s ranked No. 5 in the world, will enter the season-opening major as a reigning Grand Slam champion, and is trying not to sulk.

A lot has happened for Naomi Osaka since she beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final last September, and she’s still coming to terms with it. Mostly, it’s the expectations.

She has reached the semifinals or better at four of her last five tournaments but hasn’t added another title.

A 6-2, 6-4 loss to No. 27-ranked Lesia Tsurenko on Saturday cost second-seeded Osaka a place in the Brisbane International final and a move up to the No. 3 world ranking – which would be a record high for a player from Japan.

“If I’m being really frank, I just feel like I had like the worst attitude today,” the 21-year-old Osaka said. “I feel like I didn’t really know how to cope with not playing well.”

She dropped two service games in the first and went down an early break in the second but had chances to get even in the sixth game, when she had two break points but committed a string of unforced errors and Tsurenko held for 4-2.

Osaka kicked the air at one point and dropped her racket to the court after missing another, before visibly questioning how she could be getting it so wrong when her forehand skewed wide on game point.

“I was sulking a little bit, and like there are moments that I tried not to do that. But then the ball wouldn’t go in, and then I would go back to being like childish and stuff,” Osaka said. “So I think like that was sort of my main problem today.

“I feel like last year I did a lot of that, and I’m trying to change it more, and I think I have – like toward the end of last year. Hopefully this isn’t like a recurring thing.”

Japanese flags were still waving in the crowd at Pat Rafter Arena for the next match, when No. 2-seeded Kei Nishikori defeated Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-2 in 66 minutes.

“Felt very good physically and, tennis-wise, I think it was perfect,” Nishikori said.

He’ll play fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev, a 7-6 (6), 6-2 winner over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in Sunday’s final, where he’s hoping to claim his first title since Memphis in 2016.

Tsurenko is 4-0 in finals, and is hoping to extend that streak when she takes on No. 5-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who beat Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4 in the night semifinal.

Tsurenko had lost both previous encounters to Osaka, including their U.S. Open quarterfinal.

From 15-40 down in the ninth, Osaka saved two match points with aces, got the advantage with an audacious drop shot and then held with an ace to ensure Tsurenko had to serve out.

Tsurenko went on the attack, earned another two match points with a volley winner and clinched it with the second of those.

She has grown in confidence since her trip to the U.S. Open quarterfinals, and is playing with more aggression.

“I don’t want to say that this was my best tennis, but it was quite a high level,” Tsurenko said. “I feel I can kind of handle every kind of pressure on court now, even when someone like Naomi is playing really strong.”

Osaka is having to deal with different expectations now.

“Before, I would just be nervous to be there in a way, and now I feel nervous because I think I should win … and I feel like people expect me to win,” she said. “So that’s like an added amount of nerves. But, I mean, I feel like I’m getting used to it.”

Osaka will continue her preparations for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14 in Melbourne, with an emphasis on trying to not to sulk when things are going wrong.

“In a way this experience for me is better than winning the tournament, because like this helpless feeling I have, I think today I learned sort of what I … I can do to like improve the situation,” she said. “There aren’t many moments that I feel like that. But, yeah, I feel like today was a very valuable lesson.”

Tsitsipas is youngest man in Slam SFs since ’07

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The Latest on Tuesday at the Australian Open (all times local):

4 p.m.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 2007 after beating Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) at the Australian Open to follow up on his stunning upset of Roger Federer.

Tsitsipas is the first player from Greece to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam, and at 20 years, 168 days, is the youngest man to make the semifinals at a major since Novak Djokovic at the 2007 U.S. Open. He’s the youngest man to do so in Australia since Andy Roddick in 2003.

The No. 14-seeded Tsitsipas will play either 17-time major winner Rafael Nadal or first-time quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe.

“I’m just living the dream,” said Tsitsipas, who had beaten six-time Australian Open winner Federer in the fourth round.

The No. 22-seeded Bautista Agut advanced the hard way, spending more than 14 hours on court through his first four rounds. He had three five-setters starting with a victory over five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, followed by another against Australian John Millman and, after advancing through the third round in straight sets, his fourth-round win over 2018 finalist Marin Cilic went the distance as well.

2 p.m.

Li Na saw much of herself in a young player on the women’s tour early last year.

The two-time Grand Slam champion didn’t hesitate to anoint Japan’s Naomi Osaka as the player with a bright future.

So, Li, to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July along with fellow former Australian Open champions Mary Pierce and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, was not surprised when Osaka won the 2018 U.S. Open and is already a quarterfinalist at Melbourne Park this time.

Li was a trailblazer in women’s tennis, becoming the first player from China to win a WTA title – in 2004 – and the first from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title when she won the 2011 French Open. She also won the Australian Open in 2014 after losing two previous finals here.

“When I first saw Naomi Osaka play, I thought she was really calm, very mature on court. She was so focused on her game itself, no pressure, point by point. That quality and the player’s focus really impressed,” she said through a Chinese translator.

1:45 p.m.

Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai have combined for an upset 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) women’s doubles quarterfinal win over top-ranked Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova on Day 9 at the Australian Open.

Krejcikova and Siniakova won the French Open and Wimbledon doubles titles last year and reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open to finish 2018 with the No. 1 ranking.

“They’re a great team – won 2 Slams last year, so we did well,” Stosur said. “We came back from a break in both sets – looking forward to tomorrow.”

Stosur, who had a career high No. 4 ranking in singles and won 2011 U.S. Open title, has two major women’s doubles titles but lost the only final she reached at Melbourne Park in 2006.

“It would be amazing,” Stosur said of winning at home. “I guess we’re close now, in the semis. It only gets harder here.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas was playing Roberto Bautista Agut in the first of the singles quarterfinals on Tuesday, and 17-time major winner Rafael Nadal was playing the last night match on Rod Laver Arena against Frances Tiafoe.

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Sore, tired Djokovic expects to be OK for QFs

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Latest on Monday at the Australian Open (all times local):

2 a.m.

Record-chasing Novak Djokovic is feeling sore and tired following his late-finishing win over Daniil Medvedev, but thinks he will be OK for his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Kei Nishikori.

“I didn’t feel so great, you know, in the last 20 minutes of the match or so,” Djokovic, aiming for a record seventh men’s title in Australia, said after overcoming a couple of tumbles and a series of energy-sapping baseline exchanges in the 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 win.

Immediately after the match, he said in a TV interview that he had never felt fresher.

At a later news conference, he was more circumspect about his preparation for Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

“It was not the fall. It was not particularly the fall. It was just, you know, a little bit of fatigue, a little bit of back,” he said. “Nothing major. But there are a couple of things that have surfaced, so to say, you know, after a match like this.

“We’ll see tomorrow how the body reacts, but I’m confident I can recover and I can be ready for next one.”