US star closes in on another finals appearance with straight sets win over Spaniard

Madison Keys stands one win away from a return to the US Open final, with the 2017 runner-up ending the Grand Slam dream of Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday and lining up a semi-final with Japan’s Naomi Osaka.

Keys, from California, has reached the final four at Flushing Meadows with the loss of just one set (third round); she improved to 4-0 over her opponent, who had been hoping to become the first Spanish woman to reach the Open semis since 1996 (Arantxa Sanchez Vicario).

Keys put a lock on the match with one break per set; she now she faces a quick 24-hour turnaround time as the final Grand Slam of the season edges towards the business end of the fortnight.

“To break in both sets, having solid games there, was really important tonight,” Keys said.

“I felt good tonight, I’m really happy to be in the semifinal. But I still haven’t totally processed this match.”

Keys advanced with six aces in her 83-minute success over Suarez Navarro, who turned 30 during the joint-best run of her career at the majors.

“She was more fresh than me. Faster, that’s it. She was returning in pressure situations every time because I don’t have a big first service,” the Spaniard said.

Keys has never lost to upcoming opponent Osaka in a pair of previous meetings, including the Roland Garros final three months ago.

Suarez Navarro came to her second New York quarter-finals after upset wins over No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia and five-time grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova.

But she now stands 0-7 in last-eight matches at the majors.

Osaka produced her best career performance on the big stage as she became the first woman from Japan to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Wimbledon 22 years ago.

The last compatriot to get this far at a major was Kimiko Date at the All England club semis in 1996.

Osaka wrote a line in the record books as she crushed unseeded Lesia Tsurenko, 6-1, 6-1, dominating on another stinking hot day with the heat relief rule in effect.

The winner lost a mere seven points on serve, taking just 58 minutes to administer the spanking to the 29-year-old Ukrainian, ranked 36th.

“It means a lot, but I was freaking out inside,” Indian Wells champion Osaka said.

“My entire body was shaking, but I was really glad I was able to play well today.”

The occasional hothead took pride in the fact that she was able to keep all of her racquets in tact during the contest: “I didn’t break one. I fought for every point.

“That’s (temper) something that I’ve struggled with in the past, but I’ve matured a little bit.”

Tsurenko was playing as the first Ukrainian woman in a New York quarter-final since Kateryna Bondarenko nine years ago.

Osaka was never in danger, taking a 3-0 lead and wrapping up the opener in a brief 26 minutes with an ace.

Tsurenko was broken early in the second set as she trailed by a 4-0 margin before eventually going down, her tournament done after knocking out former No. 1 and second seed Caroline Wozniacki in last week’s second round.

“I hate matches like this,” said Tsurenko, who revealed she had been ill coming in and looked at times at coming close to collapse in the steamy temperatures what has been criticised as an airless Ashe stadium.

“I didn’t want to show this kind of game in front of this big crowd.”

Tsurenko lost serve five times as her hopes faded away for this edition; she had been the last of the unseeded players and the first from that group to get that far here.

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