The reward for Naomi Osaka after winning the BNP Paribas Open last week was a first round clash with former World No.1 and her idol, Serena Williams. The 20-year-old passed in flying colours by beating Williams 6-3 6-2.
It started well for Williams, on her comeback after delivering a baby as she held to love in the first game. Both players held their serves until the seventh game when Osaka relied on unforced errors from the former champions and making shots that needed rapid movement.
Williams fought back and got to deuce in the eighth game but Osaka held her nerve to take a 5-3 lead. The world No.22 wrapped up the set with a second break when it looked highly unlikely. Williams led 40-0, but Osaka had other ideas with a huge forehand return followed by a backhand winner as Williams made another unforced error.
All in all, Williams made 14 unforced errors in the first set compared to Osaka’s seven.
The second set started like the first, with each player holding serve until the fourth game. Williams thought she had a break in the third game but Osaka got out of jail with two consecutive aces. She then broke Williams on another unforced error from Williams. She led 4-1, 5-2 before wrapping up the game in just over an hour.
Osaka racked up seven aces with a 63 per cent serve output while she won 78 per cent of her first serve points while Williams hit just three aces, winning 78 per cent of her first serve but a dismal 31 per cent on her second serve.
This was Serena Williams’ earliest defeat from the Miami Masters tournament, which she won for the first time in 2002 when Osaka was four-years-old. Her other earliest defeat was in 2016 when she lost in the fourth round to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
After another high profile win, Osaka said at the on-court post-match interview, “I kind of wanted to impress her.” She continues to impress in her third year on tour and if she continues at this rate, she could be in the top 10 before Wimbledon. For Serena, her comeback continues.