NEW YORK (Reuters) - Naomi Osaka’s pursuit of back-to-back U.S. Open titles came to a halt on Monday when she was knocked out by Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 7-5 6-4 in the last 16.
Osaka, 21, was broken late in the opening set and then again when she double faulted to hand her 13th-seeded opponent a 3-2 advantage in the second set.
Bencic, who improved to 3-0 this year against Osaka, will next face Croatian Donna Vekic in the quarter-finals.
“I’m really pleased with how I played and how I managed my nerves in the end,” Bencic said.
“I’m not the person with the most winners or aces, I had to play it a bit like chess with tactics on the court.”
Belgian 25th seed Elise Mertens continued her steady progress with a 6-1 6-1 win over American qualifier Kristie Ahn in 66 minutes.
In the men’s draw, Spanish second seed Rafa Nadal survived a second-set hiccup to beat 2014 champion Marin Cilic 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-2.
Nadal, the 18-time Grand Slam champion, is aiming to close the gap on Federer’s tally of 20 at Flushing Meadows this week.
The pair remain on course to meet in Sunday’s final, which would be the first meeting in New York of their long-time rivalry.
Three-times champion Nadal will next face Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who toppled sixth seed Alexander Zverev 3-6 6-2 6-4 6-3 in their round of 16 clash earlier in the day.
Highlights of the eighth day at the U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam tournament of the year, on Monday (times GMT):
Teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu overcame a mid-match blip to beat American qualifier Taylor Townsend 6-1 4-6 6-2.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, Andreescu became the first Canadian woman reached a U.S. Open quarter-final since Patricia Hy-Boulais in 1992.
Second seed Rafa Nadal dropped his first set of the tournament but recovered to beat 2014 champion Marin Cilic 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-2.
Nadal, chasing his fourth U.S. Open title, will meet Argentine Diego Schwartzman for a place in the semi-finals.
Gael Monfils, the 13th seed, dispatched unseeded Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-1 6-2 6-2 to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the fourth time.
The Frenchman hit eight aces and 34 winners, and won 14 points at the net, to set up a last eight clash with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, the 24th seed.
Belgium’s Elise Mertens, the 25th seed, ended unseeded American Kristie Ahn’s dream run at Flushing Meadows to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the first time.
Mertens, who won 6-1 6-1, hit 16 winners and made 10 fewer unforced errors than her opponent’s 25 as she wrapped up the one-sided contest in 66 minutes.
Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman beat sixth seed Alexander Zverev 3-6 6-2 6-4 6-3 to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the second time in the 20th seed’s career.
Germany’s Zverev, who has never made the second week at Flushing Meadows, served 11 aces but paid the price for 17 double faults and 65 unforced errors in the three-hour tussle.
Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, the number 24 seed, beat Russia’s Andrey Rublev 6-1 6-4 7-6(6) to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
Berrettini carved out 10 break point chances against Rublev’s serve, converting four, and hit 37 winners and seven aces as he wrapped up the match in two hours, 11 minutes.
Croatia’s Donna Vekic fought back from a set down to beat Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 to advance to her first Grand Slam quarter-final.
Although Goerges fired 21 aces to Vekic’s three, she was only able to convert two break points. The Croatian also saved two match points in the second set before storming back into the contest.
Defending U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka was knocked out 7-5 6-4 by Belinda Bencic, who won in 86 minutes to beat the defending champion for the third time this year and reach her second U.S. Open quarter-final.
Osaka, who asked for the physio midway through the match to assess a troublesome knee, was able to break Bencic only once in the match while the Swiss converted three break points and won every point whenever she approached the net (nine points).
“I was so excited to come on the court, the challenge could not be bigger so I had to be on top of my game, I’m really pleased with how I played and how I managed my nerves in the end,” Bencic said.
Play began on Monday in rainy conditions with the temperature hovering around 23 degrees Celsius (73.4°F) and a forecast high of 25C.
Compiled by Rohith Nair, Simon Jennings and Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond, Christian Radnedge and Amlan Chakraborty