MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Naomi OsakaTears welled in her eyes as the match ended, a sight all too familiar to her in recent years.
These are the types of happiness.
For the former world No. 1, that’s huge progress.
Osaka beat 22nd place Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday in the Miami Open semifinals. She is in a championship match for the first time since the Australian Open 2021, and will face either number 16 Jessica Pegula or number 2 Iga Swiatek on Saturday.
“Fuck, I’m almost crying,” Osaka said.
Probably almost not. She hid her face in an orange scarf a few times right after the match ended, at least one tear was evidently running down her right cheek. Osaka enters this tournament ranked 77th in the world, will leave Miami no worse than 36 and will return to the top 30 if she wins the title.
It’s been a long, tried and often emotional journey for Osaka since she won the 2018 US Open final. Serena Williams. She was distraught during her loss at Indian Wells on March 12 after an insulting shout from an audience member, withdrew from last year’s French Open to deal with mental health, and left the tournament. US Open last year in tears.
But in South Florida, one of the places she considers home, it’s all about getting support from fans.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you guys,” Osaka told them during her court interview.
Pegula and Swiatek, who will replace those who are now retired Ashleigh Barty as the world No. 1 ranked female tennis player next week, will meet in another women’s semi-final on Thursday night.
Hurkacz, 8th seed and defending champion Miami, beat down 8th seed and struggling Medvedev 7-6 (7), 6-3 on Thursday in the men’s quarterfinals.
“Every muscle cramps, cramps, cramps, cramps,” says Medvedev.
If Medvedev wins, he will pass Novak Djokovic on Monday and back to No. 1 in the world rankings. Instead, the Russian will keep the world No. 2 and find out who won the Miami championship on Sunday like everyone else.
“For me, the way just to win the game is more important than being number one,” said Medvedev. “Winning the game, I see it as more than a reward.”
Hurkacz, who is from Poland, will next meet the number 14 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain or unpacked Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia in the semi-finals. Kecmanovic and Alcaraz play in the final quarter-final on Thursday.
“I’ve come back pretty well, I’ve been putting pressure on his serves and that’s helping my game,” Hurkacz said. “I was able to get some free points on my serve and that was pretty big.”
Hurkacz has played Medvedev four times, and Medvedev has been ranked 2nd in the world in each of those meetings – now they’re split. Hurkacz has improved to 14-5 this year, and his all-time record in Miami is 12-1.
“It’s been fun coming here,” Hurkacz said.