'I was thinking too much,' says Osaka after Madrid exit

World number one Osaka has claimed the last two majors at the US and Australian Opens and will be looking for a third in succession when she travels to Paris for the French Open later this month.

Osaka

“I wanted to do that but I was thinking about it while I was playing, which wasn't necessarily a good thing," Osaka said about the pressure before her Madrid Open tie on Thursday.   -  Getty Images

Naomi Osaka admitted she “was thinking about too many things” in her 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 Madrid Open quarterfinal loss to Belinda Bencic on Thursday.

World number one Osaka has claimed the last two majors at the US and Australian Opens and will be looking for a third in succession when she travels to Paris for the French Open later this month.

However, she admitted that knowing her top WTA ranking could possibly be in danger after failing to reach the Madrid semifinals might have played on her mind mid-match on Thursday.

READ | Bencic sends Osaka crashing out of Madrid Open

“I was just thinking about too many things. I wanted to win this match so much because she'd beaten me before — I didn't want to lose twice in a row,” said the 21-year-old.

“People have been telling me if I get to the semis here, I can stay number one.

“I wanted to do that but I was thinking about it while I was playing, which wasn't necessarily a good thing.”

The Japanese star, who will lose the top ranking if Simona Halep takes the Madrid title, will now head to Rome next week for the final tune-up prior to the May 26 start of Roland Garros.

“I'm really happy as my serve was my biggest concern coming in,” she said after losing for the second time in two months to Switzerland's Bencic who also triumphed in Indian Wells.

READ | Djokovic storms into Madrid Open Quarterfinal, keeps up perfect record against Chardy

“I wanted to play this tournament and I'm going to play Rome, too.

“There's a lot of happy things to take from this because I lost in the first round last year so anything is an improvement, honestly.”

Bencic, a former top 10 player before injury struck several seasons ago, is now back in the top 20 and determined to lift her standing further.

“Of course I'm very happy,” the number 18 said. “I'm in the semifinals, I beat the world number one and I turned the match around.”

She will have a chance to go further on Friday as she plays two-time tournament winner Halep, who booked her last-four-spot with a 7-5, 7-5 win against Australian Ashleigh Barty.

Bencic defeated former number one Halep on her way to the Dubai hardcourt trophy in February.

“It's always long rallies with her. I don't think that's going to change,” said Bencic.

“But this is a different surface (than Dubai), a different city, different conditions.

“I'll just have to try to play the same as I always do and focus on my game, focus on myself.”

Halep gunning for title and world number one ranking

Two-time women's champion Halep overcame Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 7-5 to reach her fourth Madrid semifinal.

Romania's third seed and former world number one will next play Bencic.

“For me, it's a huge victory, it's a huge match I played today,” said Halep.

“It means a lot that to win. It was on clay so I liked my chances, but still, it was very difficult and every point was important.”

Former US Open winner Sloane Stephens downed Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 6-3 in her quarterfinal.

'Stressful game but happy with win,' says Federer

Roger Federer saved two match points to defeat Gael Monfils and reach the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

Federer, playing only his second match of a 2019 comeback to clay after three years away, needed two hours to defeat French showman Monfils 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3).

Federer admitted he struggled to get past the talented Monfils, seeded 15th, before recording his 1,200th career win.

It took a comeback from 4-1 down in the final set after sweeping the first set in 18 minutes, combined with a dominating tiebreak for the Swiss fourth seed to advance.

READ | Baby steps? Federer beats Monfils, finds clay feet at Madrid

Federer said nothing was decided until the end of a match played in difficult swirling winds and challenging conditions.

“I had a tough run of five losing games late in the second and into the third,” said the 20-time Grand Slam champion who will face Austrian fifth seed and recent Barcelona champion Dominic Thiem for a place in the semi-finals.

“I just hung in there, saving two match points (to force a final-set tiebreaker).

“It was a very stressful situation. Now that I'm through it, I'm very excited with the win.

“This match gave me a lot of information, it showed how tricky clay can be with the wind and everything. But I tried to take the bad bounces and the rest and just play positive tennis.”