BNP Paribas Open, ??? Indian Wells R1 Preview
?? Naomi Osaka vs ?? Maria Sharapova
The pick of the opening round matches at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open sees two-time former champion Maria Sharapova come up against Japan’s Naomi Osaka. This will be the first career meeting between Osaka and Sharapova, an exciting match-up between two extremely aggressive players. Osaka has already claimed some big victories in her young career, can she add Sharapova to her list of high profile scalps? A determined Sharapova will be keen to deny one the tour’s brightest rising-stars.
Naomi Osaka has been quite consistent of late as she continues to make her way up the rankings. Osaka arrives at the BNP Paribas Open on the back of a decent couple of weeks in the Middle East. Osaka successfully qualified for the main draw in Doha before succumbing in the second round to Anastasija Sevastova. Whilst more recently Osaka reached the quarter-finals in Dubai, solid results after reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open earlier this year. Osaka had a few good wins over Kristina Mladenovic and Anett Kontaveit in Dubai before being beaten by the eventual champion: Elina Svitolina. Osaka’s immense talent is undeniable, however her mentality is still an issue.
Maria Sharapova’s Middle Eastern swing certainly did no go to plan. Sharapova suffered a shock opening round exit at the Qatar Total Open, beaten by Monica Niculescu from a set and a break ahead. Sharapova would generally be disappointed with her start to the season, the former world number 1 has amassed a modest 5-3 win/loss record up until this point in the season. Sharapova will look to ignite her season in Indian Wells, a tournament where she has great memories having twice won the BNP Paribas Open.
It will be interesting to see how this first time meeting pans out. Osaka seemingly has the game to trouble Sharapova but does Osaka have the mentality to match the intensity and competitiveness of Sharapova?