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Indian Wells: Osaka braces for Serena challenge

Other Sports
Mon, 19 Mar 2018

INDIAN WELLS, US: Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka will have little time to celebrate in her first career victory with the Japanese drawing eight-time champion Serena Williams in the first round of next week’s Miami Open.

Osaka scored a commanding 6-3 6-2 victory over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a battle of 20-year-olds at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Sunday.

“I was extremely stressed and extremely nervous, but my plan was to fake that I’m very calm,” Osaka told reporters.

“I just knew that she was going to fight for every point, too, so I couldn’t afford to lose points based on nerves, and I had to keep making the right decisions.”

Osaka had defeated former grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, fifth seed Karolina Pliskova and then world number one Simona Halep on her way to the title and the $1,340,860 first place money.

“It was hard for me to get my nerves in check in the first game, especially since – I don’t know why I decided to serve first,” Osaka said.

“We were playing some long points, and I wasn’t really trying to hit hard today, because I felt like it would be better for her to take my pace.

“I wanted her to do whatever she wanted to do, and I was just going to sit back and see what she does. I feel like I wasn’t that aggressive today. I was just more consistent.”

Serena lost to sister Venus at Indian Wells in the third match of her return after having a child and is likely to face Osaka for the first time on Wednesday, the third day’s play in the women’s draw in Miami.

For her victory, Osaka leaped 22 places in the world rankings released yesterday while Jelena Ostapenko burst into the top five for the first time.

Osaka moved from 44th spot to 22nd.

Ostapenko, also 20, moved up a place to fifth as Karolina Pliskova, beaten in the Indian Wells quarter-finals by Osaka, slipped to sixth.

Halep retained top spot despite her elimination in the semi-finals in California.

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