Naomi Osaka of Japan is on the upswing after a slump following her triumph at the Australian Open at the start of the year. AFP/VNA Photo
BEIJING — US Open champion Bianca Andreescu paid Naomi Osaka the ultimate compliment on the eve of their first match, saying the Japanese player's game has similarities with that of Serena Williams.
Two of the most exciting talents in tennis clash on Friday in the quarter-finals of the China Open in Beijing.
Ahead of what could be the start of a long rivalry, the 21-year-old Osaka called the 19-year-old Canadian Andreescu "an amazing player" and said "I have to learn from her".
The Japanese, on the upswing after a slump following her triumph at the Australian Open at the start of the year, smiled: "I'm older than her, very much so.
"I noticed that she seems to be very... just focused."
Andreescu, on a winning streak of 17 matches, returned the praise with gusto.
"I know she's an aggressive player. She has similar traits to Serena as well," said the world number six.
"Big serve, big groundstrokes. She moves pretty well, too."
Andreescu, whose ascent has been so fast that she did not even feature at the China Open a year ago, added: "She's doing incredible, especially at such a young age as well.
"It's nice to play another player that's close to my age.
"We're kind of like the next generation. I'm really excited."
Andreescu, playing her first tournament since stunning Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows last month, thrashed American qualifier Jennifer Brady.
The teenager started with intent, breaking Brady's first service game on the way to a brutal 6-1, 6-3 win in 68 minutes.
But Osaka, a former world No 1, is also in form, yet to drop a set in three matches in Beijing and fresh from winning the Pan Pacific Open in Japan.
The two-time Grand Slam champion said she was "angry relaxed" after a dominant 6-4, 6-0, win over unseeded American Alison Riske.
Osaka, ranked four, reeled off 10 games in a row to seal victory.
"I'm relaxed, but I'm a little bit angry, it's an angry relaxed," said Osaka when asked what was behind her recent success in Japan and now China.
Also into the last eight in hot and hazy Beijing was reigning champion Caroline Wozniacki, another former world number one. She faces Russia's Daria Kasatkina.
Another in action on Friday is current women's No 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who plays the seventh seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
Men's holder exits
In the men's draw, the title-holder Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia was on course to pull off a surprise against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
But the 21-year-old Tsitsipas, ranked seventh, came back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and will play big-serving John Isner of the United States in the quarter-finals.
Isner sent down 21 aces in defeating Britain's Dan Evans in two sets.
Also on Friday, former No 1 Andy Murray steps up his return from a career-saving hip operation when he plays top seed Dominic Thiem.
It is the three-time Grand Slam champion's first ATP singles quarter-final for a year.
Alexander Zverev, the German second seed, eased into the next round with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over another teenage Canadian, Felix Auger Aliassime. AFP