By Tucker Verdi
Remember that name. Not only was she the 2016 WTA Tour Newcomer of the Year. Not only did she just claim her first career title at Indian Wells this past weekend. She has now defeated Serena Williams.
She didn’t just beat Williams; she walloped her. The scoreline of 6-3, 6-2 reflects the hold Osaka had on the match, which took just 77 minutes to finish.
Granted, this isn’t Serena at the top of her game. Williams struggled with her mobility and her serve, aspects of her play she will continue to work on as she comes back from over a year away from the tour. But Osaka worked her left and right, top-level Serena or not.
Even when she couldn't win the point, Osaka's racket always seemed to find the ball. Her returns were sharp and often left Williams raising her hands in frustration. Her serve was even sharper, overpowering the former World No. 1 player at times.
“Sometimes when I am in a really hard position… I’m like ‘What would Serena do?’” Osaka confessed after the match.
“It worked out,” she quipped.
It wasn’t all bad news for former World No. 1’s. After a disappointing second round loss at Indian Wells, two-time Aussie Open champ Victoria Azarenka came out swinging and throttled CiCi Bellis in a 6-3, 6-0 victory that took just over an hour.
“I’m very happy with today’s performance,” Azarenka said on court following the win. “I haven’t played in such a long time so to be able to keep that intensity through the whole match without really dropping the level was really good.”
The 28-year-old Belarusian wasn’t completely impressed with her own performance, however.
“But I’m such a perfectionist that I want to do better and better and keep working not he things that weren’t so good today.”
Azarenka will take on No. 14 seed Madison Keys on Thursday while Osaka will face fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina on Friday.
Other notable results from Wednesday’s women’s action include 2016 Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig’s win over Sam Stosur and Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ loss to Alize Cornet in her first match back since a devastating knee injury at Wimbledon last year. Four additional Americans also secured their spots the second round: Vavara Lepchenko and qualifiers Allison Riske, Danielle Collins, and Sofia Kenin.
About the Miami Open presented by Itaú
The 2018 Miami Open will be played March 19-April 1 at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Miami. The two-week combined event is owned and operated by IMG. The Miami Open is one of nine ATP Masters 1000 Series events on the ATP calendar, a Premier Mandatory event on the WTA calendar, and features the top men's and women's tennis players in the world. The tournament is widely regarded as the most glamorous on the ATP and WTA calendars because of its exotic Miami location, thriving nightlife, five-star hotels and restaurants, beautiful weather and beaches, and its celebrity appeal. For ticket information, call +1.305.442.3367 or visit www.miamiopen.com.
Itau is the largest Latin America privately owned bank, with approximately 94,000 employees and operations in 19 countries throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. Itaú’s relationship with sport goes back to the 1970s, when Itaú first sponsored the Itaú Tennis Cup in Brazil in 1970. Itaú has been a sponsor of the Miami Open for the last six years, and also sponsors the Rio Open, the only combined ATP/WTA event in South America. Itaú also supports the Brazilian Women’s Tennis Circuit, only female professional tournament in South America, certified by the Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBT) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), as well as the Tennis Institute Training Center, responsible for the development of young, new talent.
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of sports media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions.