Miami Open, ????? R1 Preview
?? Naomi Osaka vs. ?? (wc) Serena Williams
The pick of the opening round clashes at the Miami Open sees the newly crowned Indian Wells champion: Naomi Osaka, come up against 8 time former Miami champion: Serena Williams. This is by far the toughest opening round match-up in the draw, a brutal match-up for both. This will be the first career meeting between Osaka and Williams, an intriguing clash between the future and the present/past of women’s tennis. In many ways, there are real similarities between Osaka and a young Williams, similar strengths and power. Also linking the pair is the fact that Osaka’s coach is Serena’s long time former hitting partner Sascha Bajin. Intriguing indeed.
Naomi Osaka arrives in Miami on a high after winning the first title of her career at the premier mandatory level event in Indian Wells. It was an outstanding event for Osaka, the 20-year-old handily beat multiple quality opponents on route to the title, winning 7 consecutive matches for the first time in her career. Osaka claimed wins over Sharapova, Radwanska, Vickery, Sakkari, Pliskova, Halep and Kasatkina. A list that includes wins over 3 former/current number 1’s. The way in which Osaka cruised through her last 3 matches in straight sets dropping a combined 13 games was exceptionally impressive, especially given Osaka’s inexperience at later stages of big events. Osaka showed consistency, patience and maturity that we have not seen from her before. It will be interesting to see how Osaka responds after such an amazing event.
Serena Williams made her much anticipated return to the WTA tour in Indian Wells. The 23-time Grand Slam champion managed to win a couple of matches in her first tournament in over a year, her first tournament since giving birth. Serena claimed straight set wins over Zarina Diyas and Kiki Bertens before succumbing to Venus Williams in straight sets. Overall it was a positive week for Serena who showed that it will not be long before she returns to the top of the game. Miami is a second home to Serena Williams, the 36-year-old has won the Miami Open on 8 previous occasions, most recently in 2015. `After a reasonably early exit in Indian Wells expect Serena to be extremely motivated heading into Miami.
It will be interesting to see what type of level Osaka can bring to this match, if she plays how she did throughout the last couple of weeks in Indian Wells then she has a great chance of pushing Serena Williams. However, replicating her Indian Wells level in Miami will be a tough, that’s for sure, getting passed a determined Serena will also be very tough.