Naomi Osaka managed to save seven match points before going down to Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-4 as the US teenager advanced to the quarter-finals of the WTA event in California.
Former No. 1 Osaka whose playing schedule for the past two seasons has been intermittent due to frequent absences for either injury or emotional support, salvaged four Gauff math-winners in the seventh game of the second set and blunted three more in the ninth.
Gauff finally served her way out of trouble a game later to clinch victory in 89 minutes.
She now takes on Spanish second seed Paula Badosa in Friday’s quarters in San Jose.
Osaka, who owns four Grand Slam titles,said she had to awake from a stupor and fight back – if in vain – against her 18-year-old opponent.
“I realised that I’ve been letting people call me mentally weak for so long that I forgot who I was.
“I realised that that’s something that I do. I lost the match today but I feel really confident in who I am.
“I feel like the pressure doesn’t beat me. I am the pressure. I’m really happy with that.”
Gauff, who levelled her record in the series to 2-2, had to hold onto a 5-1 lead in the second set.
“At 5-1, 0-40 I was not settled at all,” the Floridian said. “It’s very rare that someone comes back from 0-40 twice but it’s Naomi.
“That just shows how much of a fight she has. She could have easily thrown in the towel but she didn’t.”
Osaka was held to a dozen winners compared to 19 for Gauff.
She held Osaka to just 12 winners in the match while unleashing on her own strokes, striking 19 winners.
“I improved in all aspects and today showed it,” Gauff said. “I knew playing Naomi was going to be tough.
“I think she has one of the best baseline games in the game. When I play her
“I really held my ground and was winning a lot more of those rallies than she was.
“That just shows how much I’m improving. The last three weeks, so many hours on the court and I’m glad it’s coming together.”