Naomi Osaka rallies again at French Open, this time against Azarenka

Venus and Serena Williams have won a combined 30 grand slam singles titles but their beginnings were humble, as their father Richard Williams told CNN.

Posted: Jun 24, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: Jun 24, 2019 2:10 PM

Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka are both two-time grand slam winners but when they crossed paths at the French Open, one was surging while the other sought a return to her finest days.

It was Osaka who held all the momentum having won the last two grand slams and the Japanese world No. 1 indeed ousted the Belarusian.

Yet she needed to rally for the second straight outing in Paris to oust Azarenka 4-6 7-5 6-3 in a two-hour, 50 minute contest Thursday that lived up to the understandable pre-match billing.

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, spent less time on court combined while Juan Martin del Potro posted a lengthy five-set victory over Osaka's compatriot Yoshi Nishioka.

Visit CNN Sport for more news and videos

Osaka recovered from an even more ominous scenario in the first round against 90th-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, her Slovak foe unable to serve out the encounter twice in the second set against an admittedly nervous 21-year-old.

READ: Unforgettable day for German outsiders

READ: The anniversary of Chang's underhand serve

"I actually played well today," Osaka told reporters. "Against Vika, she has the ability to hit winners. I don't think the other girl hit that many winners.

"I was more making the mistakes."

Azarenka is capable of stringing together lengthy purple patches like Osaka -- she once amassed a mammoth 26-match winning streak in 2012.

But injuries and a child custody battle that limited travel after son Leo was born in 2016 dropped Azarenka's ranking, pitting her against high seeds early in tournaments.

Azarenka still believes

"No matter how hard it is, it's my path that I'm going to walk with my head held high, and I'm going to do everything I can until the moment where I decide, 'You know what? I'm not interested in that anymore,'" said 43rd ranked Azarenka. "But until then, I'm going to keep fighting and keep improving.

"I believe that finally my progress is showing from week to week. And as long as it keeps going that way, I have no doubt that I'm going to achieve things that I want to."

Azarenka -- who toppled 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the first round -- led by a set and 4-2 on Suzanne Lenglen court.

The 29-year-old was close to snapping an eight-match losing streak against top-10 opposition at grand slams, before Osaka dug deep. The Japanese sensation exhibited the grit, not to mention shotmaking, onlookers witnessed at the US Open and Australian Open.

Putting Osaka away, especially at majors, has become increasingly difficult.

"I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire. If I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that," said Osaka, who next plays another unseeded but dangerous challenger, Katerina Siniakova.

As the match slipped from Azarenka's grasp in the third set, she flung her racket in disgust.

Trailing 5-1 and swinging freely, a momentum shift arose. Azarenka seemed to relax and all of a sudden clawed back to 5-3, saving a match point in the process. She felt a bad call deprived her of getting to 5-4.

One more match point evaporated for a slightly rattled Osaka but a third did the job when Azarenka's return sailed long.

Glittering numbers

Osaka struck 52 winners and committed only 43 unforced errors, while Azarenka produced 35 winners and 38 unforced errors.

Considering the slow surface and heavy conditions, they were impressive numbers.

Equally as impressive, Williams -- Osaka's opponent in last year's dramatic US Open final -- cruised past 238th-ranked qualifier Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-3 6-2 to also make the third round.

This after the 23-time grand slam champion lost the first set of her opening match against Vitalia Diatchenko.

Despite Williams being fully expected to ease past Nara, the American cleared a significant hurdle.

Beset by injuries and illness, Williams had not won two singles matches in a tournament since January's Australia Open when an ankle issue affected her in a quarterfinal loss to Karolina Pliskova.

"It's just been really tough after that," said Williams, Azarenka's friend and a fellow mom. "So everything definitely feels a little bit harder than normal, but at the same time, I know that it's going to get better."

Up next for the 10th seed is the US's Sofia Kenin, one of the breakthrough performers of this season. The world No. 35 advanced when Canadian phenom Bianca Andreescu withdrew with a recurring shoulder injury.

Defending champion Simona Halep went the distance again after squandering three match points in a second set. The Romanian rebounded to down Poland's Magda Linette 6-4 5-7 6-3.

Thiem stretched, again

Coming off a record seventh Australian Open title, Djokovic is aiming for victory in Paris to claim four straight majors for the second time in his career. The Serb marched into the third round by sweeping past Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 6-3.

Djokovic needed three hours to eliminate del Potro in an epic Rome quarterfinal this month and the Argentine played even longer Thursday, edging speedy, flashy shotmaker Nishioka 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 in 3:46.

The oft injured del Potro took a medical timeout for his right knee -- he fractured the patella last year and missed most of the next seven months -- but seemed to be untroubled by the end of the thriller.

A warm embrace ensued and del Potro applauded Nishioka, who suffered a major knee injury in 2017, off court.

Last year's finalist Dominic Thiem -- probably the third men's favorite at Roland Garros behind 11-time winner Rafael Nadal and Djokovic -- faced a much tougher test.

The Austrian went four sets for the second consecutive round, beating the unpredictable Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 7-5.

Thiem was fortunate not to go five sets, since Bublik -- who hit an underhand serve for the second straight round -- led 5-2 with two set points in the fourth.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 118322

Reported Deaths: 3591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21502767
Lake10688323
Elkhart6707111
St. Joseph6619113
Allen6330205
Hamilton4938109
Vanderburgh378131
Hendricks2766124
Monroe265536
Tippecanoe256613
Johnson2352124
Clark225957
Porter219947
Delaware200162
Cass19559
Vigo186827
Madison170375
LaPorte149141
Floyd139664
Warrick138242
Howard132663
Kosciusko125917
Bartholomew118457
Marshall101524
Dubois99919
Boone99146
Grant95134
Hancock94643
Noble93132
Henry81226
Jackson7739
Wayne77014
Morgan73438
Daviess68028
Shelby68029
Dearborn67528
LaGrange64011
Clinton62314
Harrison59224
Putnam58411
Gibson5355
Knox5289
Lawrence51629
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48811
White48714
Decatur45939
Miami4394
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper4012
Scott39011
Steuben3907
Posey3460
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31325
Clay3085
Ripley3078
Orange28824
Whitley2826
Carroll27813
Adams2763
Wabash2728
Starke2717
Washington2701
Wells2674
Spencer2633
Jefferson2503
Huntington2473
Fulton2442
Tipton22822
Randolph2238
Perry22113
Jay1920
Newton17411
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1641
Rush1574
Vermillion1310
Fountain1292
Blackford1213
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
Parke1072
Brown1043
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren411
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 151802

Reported Deaths: 4746
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin27119607
Cuyahoga17554656
Hamilton13237315
Montgomery7938164
Lucas7343364
Butler6085111
Summit5366252
Warren311549
Marion311147
Mahoning3095281
Stark2913175
Pickaway267944
Lorain233386
Delaware230621
Fairfield213253
Licking194963
Columbiana194080
Wood192172
Trumbull1916132
Clark183940
Clermont174423
Lake164851
Greene149034
Medina147539
Miami146351
Allen146269
Portage116866
Mercer113218
Erie95947
Tuscarawas94120
Wayne94068
Richland92219
Ross89624
Madison84312
Darke80643
Geauga72649
Athens7242
Belmont72427
Hancock72010
Lawrence67122
Ashtabula66048
Shelby66010
Putnam61923
Auglaize6119
Sandusky58020
Huron5557
Union5512
Scioto5167
Seneca48814
Ottawa47130
Preble44515
Muskingum4383
Holmes3959
Jefferson3384
Henry33414
Defiance33012
Champaign3133
Logan3133
Clinton30213
Perry3009
Brown2922
Knox28815
Washington26223
Jackson2616
Morrow2612
Fulton2591
Hardin25713
Crawford2476
Ashland2464
Coshocton23411
Fayette2336
Highland2303
Williams2143
Wyandot21312
Pike2020
Gallia19613
Meigs17610
Guernsey1738
Hocking1679
Carroll1527
Adams1364
Van Wert1243
Monroe11018
Paulding1100
Harrison643
Morgan500
Vinton473
Noble340
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 61°
Angola
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 59°
Huntington
Overcast
62° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Few Showers Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events