Naomi Osaka remains on track to meet Serena Williams in the US Open final, beating American Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4 to fly into the semis.
The two-time major winner and tournament favourite was far from her best, her first serve operating at just 48 per cent — but had more than enough to account for the 93rd-ranked Rogers.
The 27-year-old American, playing in a grand slam quarter final for just the second time and the first time since 2016, was too erratic in her play, hitting 23 winners and 27 errors.
Rogers won just 33 per cent of points on her second serve as Osaka pounced on the reduced pace.
Fourth-seed Osaka, who wore a mask with George Floyd’s name on it to and from the court, only gave up one break point in the game.
Despite entering the match as heavy favourite, there were some questions about Osaka’s record against Rogers.
Osaka had not taken a set off her opponent in their three previous meetings — all of which came prior to Osaka’s two grand slam singles titles.
However, despite her overall success since, the Japanese former world number one said her record against Rogers was a motivating factor.
“For me I felt like she had the upper hand because I’d never beaten her,” Osaka said.
Osaka claimed a positive attitude was behind her performance today in which she hit 24 winners and made just eight unforced errors.
The two previous occasions that Osaka has made the semi-finals of a grand slam, she has gone on to win the tournament.
Osaka will play the 28th seed Jennifer Brady, who secured her own spot in the semi-final with a straight-sets victory over Kazak 23rd seed, Yulina Putintseva.
Brady, who is ranked 41st in the world and has lost just once in 11 matches since the WTA Tour resumed due to the coronavirus-break, won 6-3, 6-2 in 69 minutes.
It was Brady’s first appearance in a grand slam quarter-final and the 25-year-old admitted to having nerves on the big stage.
“I came out with nerves. I think she did, too. I just tried to pretend it was a first-round match,” Brady said.
Brady hit 22 winners in the match to Putintseva’s seven, and although her clean striking was interspersed with 24 unforced errors, it will have to be cleaned up by the time she meets Osaka on Friday.
On Wednesday, Serena Williams takes on Tsvetana Pironkova and Victoria Azarenka meets Elise Mertens in the other quarter-finals.
Alexander Zverev through to semi-finals
In the men’s draw, Alexander Zverev beat Borna Coric in four sets, coming from a set down to claim victory 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3.
Zverev will play in his second consecutive grand slam semi-final, matching his best-ever performance at a major from earlier this year at Melbourne Park.
On that occasion, he fell to the fifth-seed Dominic Thiem in the semi, denying him an opportunity to take on Novak Djokovic in the final.
Zverev will play 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the last four in New York after the Spaniard got past the 12th-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 7-6 (5) ,7-6 (4), 0-6, 6-3 in their tense quarter-final.
“For us younger guys, we see [Djokovic being defaulted] as a massive opportunity,” Zverev said.
The 23-year-old German struggled for fluency early against the 27th-seed Coric, who capitalised on Zverev’s shaky second serve and 12 unforced errors to race into a first-set lead.
In the second set though, Zverev hit 20 winners to Coric’s eight, winning 14 of 15 pivotal points when a break down to turn the tide.
The unforced errors from both men remained high throughout the match — 46 to Zverev and 41 to Coric — but Zverev tidied his game up enough to claim the match.
“Sometimes not playing your best and finding a way is more important than playing your best,” Zverev said.