Naomi Osaka has spoken about the connection she shares with WTA Miami after she won through to the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The 23-year-old, who is the reigning champion at both the US Open and Australian Open, will next take on Maria Sakkari of Greece in the last eight at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
After her straight-sets win over Mertens, the second seed explained to the media what gives her such a "special" feeling when playing in Miami.
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"It feels really exciting," Osaka, who has made two second-round and two third-round exits in her last four appearances at the event, told reporters after her latest win.
As a kid, I grew up watching players play here. It definitely feels very special.
"This is one of my favourite tournaments to play, and of course I’m sad I haven’t been able to get to the second week the other times that I have played this tournament.
"But I’m here now, and hopefully it will go well this time."
Sakkari secured the match up against Osaka after the 23rd seed produced a 6-4 2-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Jessica Pegula of the United States.
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Ash Barty has been top of the world rankings since September 2019, a run of 62 consecutive weeks. However, Osaka is bidding to dislodge the Australian at the tournament.
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Osaka, who is on a 23-match winning run, is 1,351 points behind Barty in the rankings, but there are adjustments to the WTA ranking system after Miami that could see the Australian lose points.
The new rules, which are to account for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, will see ranking points from tournaments in 2019 begin to drop off, either 104 weeks after the tournament was played in 2019 for those tournaments being played in 2021, or for those events not scheduled in 2021, when the tournament is next played.
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