We picked this match as a must-watch, and the first match of Day Six of the Australian Open did not disappoint. It is always a tricky match up to play as unpredictable a player as Hsieh Su-Wei, as Naomi Osaka was about to find out.
Hsieh opened up a 4-2 lead with a break, which Osaka managed to batten down effectively before the pair traded breaks once more. Frustration and tenseness was beginning to build for Osaka who did not really seem to have any answer for the kind of shots that were coming at her.
Hsieh broke for the set and opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set which put Osaka very much in the Upset Alert category. Getting on the board seemed to settle her a little and from a deficit of 2-4, she reeled off five games in a row to level the match, winning the first two games of the decider.
With the bit firmly between her teeth she broke Hsieh twice to close out a hard-fought win, and at the very least equals her best performance at the Australian Open, having reached the Round of 16 last year.
After the match, Osaka said: “I walked into the match knowing that she was going to do a lot of strange things, no offence (smiling). But she was just playing so well, and I think I got overwhelmed. And then early in the second set I tried doing things that I know isn’t necessarily my game, like I was trying to hit higher balls. I don’t even practice doing that. So, it felt like such a waste.
“Then after a while, I just started thinking that I’m in a Grand Slam. I shouldn’t be sad, I’m playing against a really great player, so I should just enjoy my time and try and put all my energy into doing the best that I can on every point.
“She didn’t miss. She ran everything down. I don’t know. Like, I just felt like she was playing too good, and I had to wait. For me, it’s a bit difficult to do that, because my patience isn’t so great on that side, to be honest. I did a lot of offseason training like running, so I just felt like I had to trust my athleticism, in a way.”
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Elina Svitolina  def. Zhang Shuai 4-6 6-4 7-5
Osaka was not the only one to sound the upset alert klaxon – after gritting her way to winning the WTA Finals in Singapore at the end of last year, there is a lot of expectation on Elina Svitolina to translate that victory into far better headway at the Slams.
It looked to be going her way with a break in the first set, but just as swiftly she surrendered her next two service games to find herself a set down. Despite looking distressed with a shoulder injury and having a medical time out, she kept the second set tight and close, breaking Zhang Shuai to take things into a decider.
The final set though was a war of attrition. Zhang was 3-0 up but Svitolina’s fighting spirit came to the fore, as she won five games in a row. Zhang threw up one last rally of resistance to get one of the breaks back to get things back on serve, but the Ukrainian delivered the final blow before breaking to book her spot in the fourth round for the second straight year.
After the match, Svitolina said: “I think we left everything on court. It was very hot, actually. You know, last night when I checked the weather, it was 20 degrees, max, so didn’t really expect it was going to be that hot. Of course, we played a long match so I’m very pleased that I could, yeah, get the win today.”
Osaka and Svitolina will play their fourth-round matches on Monday.
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