A defeat for Naomi Osaka at the hands of Belinda Bencic in the quarter-final of the Madrid Open has left Simona Halep with a chance to regain the world number one ranking.
Incidentally, Osaka has also blamed getting distracted by the race to the top spot in the WTA rankings as one of the reasons for her defeat to the Swiss unseeded player.
Osaka, who would have retained her top spot, went down in three sets to Bencic and later said:
“People have been telling me if I get to the semis I can stay number one, so I wanted to do that. I wanted to do that and I was thinking about that while I was playing, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.”
The Japanese player admitted she was distracted by the quest to remain at the top, as it took away from allowing her to play her usual calm self. Incidentally, this was Bencic’s second successive defeat of Osaka, having earlier beaten her at the Indian Wells Open where Osaka had entered as the defending champion.
Osaka had her chances though. She broke Bencic in the fifth game of the third set and then held through to the ninth game to serve for the match at 5-4. However, it was at this stage she looked to have become more distracted, getting broken to love before losing the next two games to enter the semi-finals.
And now, she will play Simona Halep in the last-four match later today.
Halep was a 7-5, 7-5 winner against Ash Barty, and needs two more wins now to ensure she overtakes Osaka as the top-ranked woman in the world. What makes her path to that easier is the defeat of Petra Kvitova in another quarter-final.
Kvitova was sent packing by Kiki Bertens, crushing the defending champion 6-2, 6-3 to set up another semi-final with Sloane Stephens. Stephens had no trouble getting past Petra Martic in her last-eight encounter.