Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has been knocked out of the Tokyo Olympics by world number 42 Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic in a stunning upset.
On Friday, Osaka lit the Olympic flame to kickstart the Games before breezing past Zheng Saisai and Viktorija Golubic in her first and second round matches.
But she was outplayed by Vondrousova on Tuesday, with the Czech winning 6-1 6-4 in just over an hour, marking the first time Osaka has lost before the quarter-finals of a hardcourt event since the 2020 Australian Open.
Osaka had looked good in her first two victories at the Olympics, speaking of how happy she was to be back on court after a break from the sport, but former French Open finalist Vondrousova was a big step up in quality.
With the roof closed at the Ariake Tennis Park, the Czech combined some big serves with powerful hitting, breaking Osaka twice in the opening set.
The 23-year-old, who had won 25 of her last 26 matches on hard court, was considered one of the favourites to claim gold in Tokyo but she looked a little sluggish and frustrated as Vondrousova moved her around the court with plenty of drop shots.
She upped her game a little in the second set but the young Czech was playing some brilliant tennis and while Osaka managed to save two match points, Vondrousova claimed the win at the third time of asking.
Osaka’s exit comes after Wimbledon champion and number one seed Ashleigh Barty made an early exit, with the competition now wide open.
Vondrousova is the first player to book her place in the quarter-finals and she will take on either Paula Badosa of Spain or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina next, with the bad weather in Japan causing many of today’s matches to be delayed.
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