MIAMI — As Naomi Osaka’s 23-match winning streak neared an end Wednesday, she paused before serving to crane her neck and stare at the sky, as if seeking intervention from above.
Then she carried on, and so did No. 23-seeded Maria Sakkari, who upset Osaka 6-0, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.
“The more stuff like this happens, the more I’ll learn from it,” the No. 2-ranked Osaka said.
The defeat was her first since February 2020, and it ended any chance of reclaiming the No. 1 ranking this week from Ash Barty, who is in the semifinals.
Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in February, but in five Miami appearances she has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals. She said couldn’t get comfortable on the tournament’s hard-court surface.
“I felt like I haven’t been playing well this whole tournament, like I couldn’t find a groove,” she said.
Against Sakkari, the only Greek woman ranked in the top 250, Osaka lost 15 consecutive points on her serve to fall behind and blew a 4-1 lead in the second set. She faced a break point on seven of her eight service games.
“Today’s service problems kind of came out of nowhere,” Osaka said. “My first serve wasn’t going in at all today.”
Sakkari earned her sixth career win over a top-five opponent. She’s still in the tournament only because she saved six match points in the previous round before beating American Jessica Pegula.
Osaka made just 41% of her first serves and paid a price, because Sakkari aggressively attacked the second set. Sakkari also served well and would repeatedly extend rallies until Osaka made an error.
“I don’t think it was the best tennis I played in my life,” Sakkari said. “I just did what I had to do.”
Osaka took a 40-0 lead in the opening game but didn’t win another point on her serve until the second set. When she ended the drought, she received a big ovation from the small crowd, which she followed up with her best stretch of tennis.
But Sakkari rallied. From 40-0 down she won five consecutive points, hitting one last thunderous return to break for a 5-4 lead. She then coolly served out the victory.
“I just really enjoyed myself out there,” Sakkari said.
She’ll next face the winner of the match Thursday night between No. 8-seeded Bianca Andreescu and unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo.
As for Osaka, she was asked later about the pressure of the win streak and being told the No. 1 ranking was potentially on the line.
“It’s hard to say, but I do think like the last time I was in this seat, I wasn’t really thinking at all about rankings, but someone asked me that question, so then I did start to ponder about it a lot. So maybe unwillingly that put pressure on myself,” she said. “But I feel like even if it did, I should be able to rise above that. You know, I’m going to be asked various questions in the future anyway, so this is definitely something that shouldn’t bother me as much as it did.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.