Former champion Naomi Osaka survived a third-round scare before grinding out a 6-3 6-7(4) 6-2 victory over fearless Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk to reach the last 16 of the U.S. Open on Friday.
The Japanese fourth seed initially looked like she would enjoy a routine day on the court but was forced to dig deep to secure victory after two hours and 33 minutes against an 18-year-old who was making her U.S. Open main draw debut.
“She was very good. Like, I’m kind of scared of how she’s going to be in the future,” two-times Grand Slam champion Osaka said, praising her opponent during an on-court interview.
After Osaka breezed through the first set, a match filled with shifts in momentum suddenly turned in Kostyuk’s favour as she broke her opponent for the first time to pull ahead 4-3.
Kostyuk consolidated the break but dropped the next three games and had to hold serve to force the tiebreak. She dropped the first two points but won seven of the next nine to close out the set, leaving Osaka to fling her racquet down in frustration.
“I just feel like I had so many points that I didn’t capitalise on,” said Osaka. “When I went up I became a bit passive and then she came in because she has no fear.”
Osaka, whose left leg was heavily taped after suffering a hamstring injury that forced her to withdraw from the final of a tune-up event last week, leaned on her experience and steadied herself in the decider.
After Kostyuk went ahead 2-1 in the final set, the Ukrainian had her right ankle taped for the second time in the match.
Osaka held serve to draw level and then won 16 of the next 19 points to close out the victory.
“I’m very tired right now,” said Osaka. “I just want to go into an ice bath. I’m not sure this is classified as an emergency but I feel like I’m going to pass out.”