Defending Champion and World Number 1 Naomi Osaka of Japan lost to the 13th seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 7-5, 6-4 on Monday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium. After an emotional win over 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round, Osaka struggled to face Bencic's service games. Bencic, who has been mentored by Swiss legends Roger Federer and Martina Hingis, showed that she is a big-match player and will continue to play for the million-dollar prize money that goes to the winner. She will next face Donna Vekic of Croatia.
Osaka had made her breakthrough at Flushing Meadows a year ago, winning her first major championship by beating Serena Williams. She went on to win her second consecutive Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open in January. That allowed her to become the first tennis player representing Japan to reach number 1 in the rankings. "Right now I have this feeling of sadness, but I also feel like I have learned so much during this tournament," Osaka explained after her loss. "Of course I wanted to defend this tournament. But I feel like the steps that I have taken as a person has been much greater than I would imagine at this point. So I hope that I can keep growing. I know that if I keep working hard, then, of course, I'll have better results."
Looking forward Osaka's next big event will be a long-awaited return to her birthplace, the city of Osaka, Japan, which hosts this year's Toray Pan Pacific Open, a Premier event. Last season, Osaka followed up her US Open win by making the final on home soil. "Honestly, I'm not that mad at this," Osaka said. "Of course I can look at this and be very disappointed and mad, but I'm not mad at it. Of course, I would like to reach higher, like, rounds. That's definitely what I'll aim for in Australia." Osaka said. "I don't feel like I put so much weight on one single match," she explained. "As a whole, I want to see that I played better matches in the summer. Because I feel like definitely the tournament that I played here has been the best one so far."
"I was so excited to come on the court," Bencic said on court. "I think the challenge cannot be bigger against Naomi. She's a great player and obviously, she won U.S. Open last year, so I had to be at the top of my game, so I'm really pleased with how I played and how I managed my nerves at the end." The Swiss player's first of three wins over Osaka this season came at the same stage of Indian Wells in March. "I just came with the same mentality as I played her before," she explained. "I just really focused on the game and not about the hype or the occasion, the stadium and the round. After the match, it feels definitely different. It feels like this was the most important one," she said.