Match Preview: Naomi Osaka v Serena Williams

This is by far the first round of the draw as we have the recent BNP Paribas Open champion in Naomi Osaka doing battle with the greatest women’s tennis player of all time in Serena Williams in the third match on Stadium. In this match that is promising to be a thriller, Osaka is actually the favourite to come out on top but the margin is obviously very tight.

Recent Form

This has been a stellar start to the year for Naomi Osaka as she has already won so many matches and it is shaping up to be her best year on tour yet if her results continue. The start to the year was not too successful as she started at the Hopman Cup and despite getting a win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova she also took a loss to Belinda Bencic and withdrew from one of her matches with an illness at the round-robin stage. The effects of that illness were possibly lingering at the Hobart International as she took a first-round loss to Yulia Putintseva but then she was back on form for the Australian Open as she played great tennis on the way to a fourth loss to Simona Halep. The middle eastern swing was not too bad but it could have been better as she went through qualifying in Doha before falling in the second round to Anastasija Sevastova and then in Dubai she lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Elina Svitolina. Her most recent event over the past fortnight has been the biggest event of her career thus far as she stormed to the BNP Paribas Open title without dropping a set while getting wins over Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova to win the first WTA title of her career. Serena Williams, on the other hand, has not played much at all as she only returned from a 15-month maternity leave last week at the BNP Paribas Open and her level was quite high considering the circumstances and she made it to the third round before falling to her sister Venus Williams. I have to give the edge in terms of confidence and form to Osaka just because she is coming off such a good title run and Serena Williams has barely played in recent months.

Miami Record

Considering how young Naomi Osaka is at twenty years of age, it is no surprise that she has not played Miami very much with only two appearances being made before this year. The first of which came in 2016 when she reached the third round before going out to Timea Babos and she was not able to match that result last year in her second appearance when she fell in the second round to Simona Halep after a three-set battle. That is in stark contrast to the record of Serena Williams at this location as she has played an incredible eleven times and her average result is the final, which is really amazing for an event of this level and prestige. She has taken home the champions trophy on seven occasions with the first coming on her debut in 2003 when she got wins over Marion Bartoli, Kim Clijsters and Jennifer Capriati on the way, then in 2004 when she got wins over Jill Craybas, Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva along the way, for the third time in 2007 when she got wins over Lucie Safarova, Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin on the way, then in 2008 when she got wins over Justine Henin, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic on the way, then for the fifth time in 2013 when she got wins over Li Na, Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova, then in 2014 when she got wins over Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova and Li Na on the way before closing out her third straight Miami title in 2015 when she got wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Simona Halep. Her worst result here is the fourth round which is still a solid result and she fell at that stage in 2016 to Svetlana Kuznetsova in her most recent Miami appearance.  You have to give the clear edge to Williams in this category just because her record stands head and shoulders above everybody else in Miami.

Head to Head Record

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams have never faced each other in an official WTA main draw match.

My Prediction

This is a very difficult match to predict because there are so many other circumstances with Serena Williams obviously being rusty after only recently coming back from her maternity leave but for Noami Osaka, it is such a hard turnaround to come from taking the biggest title of her career and then have to play the greatest player of all time just a couple of days later. Another thing that leads me to the side of Williams is that she has not lost back-to-back matches since 2013 and on that occasion, one of the matches was an injury withdrawal. I do think that the rust will be showing in the opening set for Williams while Osaka will still be still riding the wave of her title and the set, could go by pretty quickly and I see Osaka taking it 6-2. I do see maybe some signs of fatigue throughout the second set and as it gets tighter for Osaka while Williams will really start to show her fight and she will take the break late in the set before taking it 6-3. Then in the third set, I actually think that Osaka will take an early break and might even serve for the match but nerves will get to her then and Williams will take a late opportunity back into the match before getting the 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.


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