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Naomi Osaka powers on as impressive Australian Open warm-up continues

“I always play well here. I really love just coming down here,” Osaka said. “I tried to defend in the US [Open] but that didn’t work out so well, so I hope that it works out better for me this time around.”

With world No.1 Ash Barty no longer in the picture, the other side of the draw has opened up but Osaka must still potentially face Pliskova, who will be favourite to reach another WTA semi-final.

Naomi Osaka during her victory over Kiki Bertens.

Naomi Osaka during her victory over Kiki Bertens.Credit:AAP

Earlier on Pat Rafter Arena, American eighth seed Madison Keys set up a semi-final against fifth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Keys was far too good for countrywoman Danielle Collins, winning 6-4, 6-1 in their quarter, before Kvitova beat another American Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2. Brady took out Barty in the second round in her best career victory.

“It’s good … it’s obviously better than losing the first tournament of the year. Happy to get a lot of matches in and feel like a lot of what I was working on during off-season is kind of immediately clicking,” Keys said.

“There’s still some things that I want to do a little bit better but it’s definitely a great starting point for the year.”

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Kvitova is one of the sport’s great comeback stories, making the final of the Australian Open last year after an intruder slashed her hand with knife during a violent home invasion in 2016.

There was no guarantee she would return to tennis at all but she’s now entrenched in the top 10 and every chance of going deep at Melbourne Park once more.

“In the beginning, it’s always a bit challenging, nobody really knows how it’s [the court] playing and how the form is and so on. But so far, yeah, I’m feeling good and that’s important,” Kvitova.

“My body’s still not falling apart yet, so that’s good as well. I think my serve got better, for sure, and I feel more confident in the groundstrokes as well. So that’s probably the biggest differences.”

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