Hsieh has been one of Osaka’s toughest match-ups this year—not only did she nearly derail Osaka’s run to the Australian Open title, leading her 7-5, 4-1 in the third round before falling, but she got revenge with a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 stunner in their next meeting in the third round of Miami.
And things were looking a little dicey early on for Osaka on Thursday, as she faced two break points serving at 1-2 in the first set—but she fought them both off to hold for 2-all, broke Hsieh in the very next game for 3-2 and never looked back, sealing victory after an hour and 24 minutes, 6-4, 6-3.
Those two early break points would be the only break points she’d face in nine service games.
“She’s a very tricky opponent,” Osaka said of Hsieh in her on-court interview. “I never really know what she’s going to do on the court, and that’s the biggest challenge of playing her, to be honest.”
Osaka posted excellent stats for her first match of the year on a new surface. She finished with 22 winners—including seven aces—to 16 unforced errors, and converted on three of six break chances.
Hsieh had an almost-even differential of winners to unforced errors, 21 to 22.
Stuttgart is the first stop in Osaka’s clay-court season this year and she’s hoping to start building momentum towards Roland Garros, where she’ll be trying to win her third straight Grand Slam title.
She’s never reached the second week in Paris, but she had never made the second week of any Grand Slam before 2018. She’s now the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion.
“I always thought even though I lost in the third round consistently at the French Open, I always played good players, and they always went far,” Osaka told WTATennis.com this week. “I do think I have chances on clay. Just knowing what shot to hit at a specific moment is really important for me.
“I guess the bounces are different and you have to swing on the ball differently, too. For me it’s a little bit different because I can’t hit as flat, and you also have to change the way you spin the ball. It’s a little bit annoying, but I’ve been practicing and hopefully the practice shows in the results.”
The Japanese is now through to the quarterfinals of the Premier-level Porsche Tennis Grand Prix for the first time. Up next will be Donna Vekic, who defeated Daria Kasatkina earlier in the day, 6-1, 7-5.
Osaka beat Vekic in their only prior meeting in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open, 6-3, 6-2.