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Scary victory

Agence France-Presse

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NAOMI Osaka books a scary three-set win over Marta Kostyuk to advance to the Last 16 of the US Open. AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK (AFP) — Japan’s Naomi Osaka battled into the Last 16 at the US Open on Friday as off-court intrigue forced the delay of a men’s singles match for “medical issues.”

Two-time Grand Slam winner Osaka required three sets in two hours and 33 minutes to dislodge 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in an early game at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The Japanese fourth seed, who threw her racket in frustration after losing the second set on tie-break, prevailed 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2 against the world No. 137.

“I just felt like I had so many points that I didn’t capitalize on. I think when I went up, I became a bit passive and then she came in because she has no fear,” said Osaka, 22.

Her experience came to the fore in the deciding set as she held her serve and broke Kostyuk twice to set up a match against 14th seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia for a place in the quarterfinals.

“It was probably experience. I know she’s very young and I think I have (played) more matches that are like this,” Osaka said.

Later Friday, mystery shrouded the third-round match between France’s Adrian Mannarino and German fifth seed Alexander Zverev, which started almost three hours late due to discussions between tournament organizers and New York health officials.

Mannarino was one of 11 players put under enhanced safety protocols earlier this week after compatriot Benoit Paire was withdrawn from the tournament after testing positive for coronavirus.

“Given the sensitivity of the medical issues involved, we were not able to provide further details,” the United States Tennis Association said in a statement.

In other games, eighth seed Petra Martic of Croatia swept aside unseeded Russian Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 6-3.

Martic will play Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the Last 16 after the 23rd seed powered past Vera Lapko of Belarus 6-3, 6-3.

Germany’s 17th seed Angelique Kerber also progressed to the fourth round, making light work of American Ann Li, 6-3, 6-4.

Kerber, the 2016 US Open, will go against Jennifer Brady for a quarterfinal spot after the American 28th seed knocked out France’s Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-3.

Garcia had provided the biggest upset of the tournament on Wednesday when she eliminated top seed Karolina Pliskova.

Kontaveit progressed to set up her tie with Osaka by beating Poland’s 24th seed Magda Linetter 6-3, 6-2.

In late games Friday, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic goes up against 28th seed Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany in the first evening match on Day 5.

Djokovic is looking to close the gap on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent from the tournament, in the race for the all-time men’s Slam singles title record, at the US National Tennis Center.

Djokovic is on 17, with Nadal on 19 and Federer on 20.

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