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Osaka, Kvitova dig deep to advance to Stuttgart semis

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Osaka, Kvitova dig deep to advance to Stuttgart semis
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Semi-final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 24, 2019. Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during the match against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova. REUTERS/Aly Song   -   Copyright  ALY SONG(Reuters)
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(Reuters) – World number one Naomi Osaka came from behind in the final set to beat Croatian Donna Vekic 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) on Friday and move into the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix semi-finals.

Osaka comfortably won the opening set but was tested by the Croatian, who pushed her to the limit in the second and third. The Japanese made 45 unforced errors as she struggles to get to grips with swapping hard courts for clay.

Osaka was visibly frustrated and trailed 5-1 in the final set but she refused to give up and found her rhythm to break Vekic twice and prevent her from serving for the match.

In the tiebreaker, a confident Osaka upped her baseline game and had two early mini breaks before wrapping up the match in two hours and 18 minutes. An infuriated Vekic even smashed her racket after losing the match.

“I told myself I didn’t want to have any regrets here,” Osaka said. “I was stressed out when I went down 1-5… but this (comeback) was pretty good because I don’t play really well on clay.”

Earlier, world number three Petra Kvitova came back from a set down to beat Anastasija Sevastova 2-6 6-2 6-3 and move into the tournament’s semi-finals for the third time in her career.

Sevastova had a dream start, breaking Kvitova twice to take a 3-0 lead as the Czech struggled with her first serve. Kvitova also made a slew of unforced errors, with many of her returns going long.

Sevastova used the full width of the court to get the better of Kvitova, who played on the back foot for much of the first set as the Latvian gave her little time to catch her breath.

However, Kvitova recovered in the second set and she broke Sevastova’s serve when she was 3-2 up, winning 10 straight points to take a 5-2 lead. Sevastova looked shaken and was broken again to give Kvitova the second set.

Kvitova took command in the final set and broke a visibly upset Sevastova to take a 3-1 lead before easing into the semis.

“In the first set I missed almost everything. I was pretty slow and she just couldn’t miss,” Kvitova said. “In the second set it was very important for me to stay on my serve and the chance to break her came.”

Kiki Bertens plays Angelique Kerber later on Friday and Victoria Azarenka faces Anett Kontaveit in the last quarter-final.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)

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