Naomi Osaka Avoids Garbine Muguruza Upset in 4th Round of 2021 Australian Open

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 14, 2021

Japan's Naomi Osaka, left, is congratulated by Spain's Garbine Muguruza after winning their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Hamish Blair/Associated Press

Naomi Osaka faced her toughest test yet during her run at the 2021 Australian Open, surviving a three-set scare against Spain's Garbine Muguruza, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, on Saturday.

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

WHAT A MATCH! @naomiosaka saves match points to reach the final eight with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 win over Muguruza. #AusOpen | #AO2021 https://t.co/m6oDjzaGWu

No. 14 Muguruza continually took advantage of copious unforced errors by No. 3 Osaka but couldn't finish off match points to eliminate the 2019 Australian Open champion. Muguruza held two match points late in the third set only to see Osaka fend off both attempts. The Japanese star then broke Muguruza's serve in the following game before finishing her off.

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

"In the stressful points, I felt like I just had to go within myself." Digging deep, @naomiosaka produced a whopping 40 winners to overcome Muguruza. #AusOpen | #AO2021 https://t.co/5onuUdR1NQ

Osaka, who committed an uncanny 36 unforced errors in the win, moves on to face Su-Wei Hsieh in the quarterfinals.

Osaka said she was a bit intimidated by Muguruza, having never played her before. Her plan coming into the match was to make sure she didn't leave any balls short and give Muguruza an opportunity to dictate the play.

That resulted in a dangerous amount of errors that nearly cost Osaka the match.

Meredith Cash @mercash22

Here’s Naomi Osaka’s racquet throw from the third set: https://t.co/ay0bp5ZKjy

After Osaka went up 2-0 in the first set, Muguruza battled back to take it 6-4 while hitting 86 percent of her first serves. She averaged 79 percent on first serves for the match while winning nine of 12 points at the net.

Overall, it was a winning strategy against Osaka until the former Australian Open champ began to take charge late in the second set. Yet everything kept coming back to Osaka's unforced errors. The game plan that allowed her to defeat Muguruza nearly led to her own elimination.

"Today I didn't really know what to expect because I haven't played her before," Osaka said on the broadcast. "I just knew it was going to be tough."

At 2-2 in the third set, Osaka missed out on two opportunities to break Muguruza's serve and instead set up a run of two straight games all in Muguruza's favor. It wasn't until the eighth game of the third set, when Muguruza again held off Osaka on game point, that the momentum began to turn back in Osaka's favor.

Osaka won the next four straight games, breaking Muguruza's serve and holding on for the victory.