In the late match, Sloane Stephens continued her dream debut at the eight-woman event when the American moved to the brink of the semifinals after she rallied for a 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3 victory over fellow tournament rookie Bertens.
"I feel like this match was sort of a continuation of my last match in a way that I feel like I just didn't serve well, in either of them", Osaka said. "I never gave up". Osaka was broken on seven of 19 break-point opportunities, while Stephens was broken on four of 12. "I was like, "just play the next game like how you want to play in the third set and just try as hard as you can", Stephens told reporters.
The 21-year-old clutched at her left hamstring on several occasions but said she would continue in the tournament. In the final set, the German didn't squander a second chance and an error from Osaka on match point ended it.
Much like against Stephens, a frustrated Osaka threw her racquet in disgust midway through the first set.
An aggressive Osaka went for her shots but couldn't find her irresistible range and a patient Kerber made her pay.
"I took my five-minutes of being really sad", Osaka said.
To me, the biggest thing I tried to teach her this year was not to rate her performance just upon the outcome of the match, that's just a result, that's just a scoreline. I think it's not often you play someone who plays kind of similar to you that you have to kind of battle it out and figures it out.
Osaka still has a slim chance of reaching the next round, but needs Stephens to beat Bertens. So I thought she played really well. When my coach came on the court, he's, like, "You're right there".
"I can not be more happy right now". "Even with the Serena match, I knew she was going to win that match because she was playing better than Serena, and she was not going to let anything, nothing deter her from winning".
Last time Kerber and Osaka met, we were set for an exciting showdown between a former (then) two-time Slam champion against the newly minted Indian wells champion - and we expected it to be a thriller. With her victory, WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen detailed, "if Bertens defeats Stephens, Bertens qualifies as the group victor, Osaka is eliminated, and Kerber and Stephens will play for the No.2 spot on Friday; if Stephens wins in straight sets, Stephens qualifies; if Bertens wins in straight sets, Bertens qualifies".