Naomi Osaka Beats Maria Sharapova in the First Round of the BNP Paribas OpenEmbed from Getty Images
The two-time Indian Wells champion (2006, 2013), now ranked No. 41 in the world, came back last April from a 15-month ban due to a failed doping test at the 2016 Australian Open.
No. 44 Osaka used a fierce forehand against the five-time major winner. Osaka jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, lost her serve and broke Sharapova to close out the first set. In almost a carbon copy of the first set, Osaka jumped out to a 4-1 lead, only to give up the break. This time a Sharapova double fault in the tenth game gave Osaka a match point. Sharapova put a shot into the net and it was game, set and match for the 20-year-old Osaka.
“She’s a rising star,” said Sharapova to media. “She’s been playing really good. She’s fast, aggressive, hits deep, big serve. You just have to get used to the pace and where it’s coming from. She goes for her shots.”
“Of course, I would have wanted to do well here, not just because I’ve won this event a couple of times, but because that’s the mentality that I have as a former champion, as someone who’s a competitor that wants to so well at the event.”
“It’s obviously frustrating to lose these types of matches that you get ready for and you want to win but it’s part of the process, I realise that.”
Osaka said that Sharapova was one of three women whom she’s always wanted to play.
“There’s basically three people I wanted to play: It was Venus, her, and Serena,” she said. “I ticked two people off so now I just have to play Serena and I’m really looking forward to that.”
“I was just really honored to play her,” Osaka said.
“I just remember being really impressed by her,” she said of the 30-year-old Sharapova. “You would never know what she was thinking because she never really got upset or anything. She was always fighting and I thought that was really cool. I actually took a lot from her and tried to learn from her.”
“I was just thinking that I would be really disrespectful to start getting angry. I’m playing against Sharapova. Who do I think I am to start getting angry playing against her? Everyone knows that she fights for every point so I was just trying to tell myself that if If I fight for every point too then it would be an equal match, and then it would sort of depend on physical ability.”Embed from Getty Images
“Everyone’s working. I think maybe five, 10 years ago, you could get by with coming to a tournament and working your way into the first couple rounds,” Sharapova said. “That’s no longer the case.”
“I feel like I tried a lot to sort of change the way I think,” Osaka said. “Before, if maybe she came back from that, I feel like I probably would have gotten really upset. I’m just really happy I was able to win and change the way my mentality works.”
Osaka will have another big test in the next round, against No. 31 seed and 2014 runner-up Agnieska Radwanska of Poland.
Other winners on Wednesday included Sam Stosur and 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova who defeated 94th-ranked Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 6-2 for her first WTA Tour win. The 16-year-old Anisimova, came into the draw as a wildcard. She’s a former US Open Junior champion.
Belinda Bencic saved a match point and escaped Timea Babos, 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4), and wildcard Genie Bouchard lost to qualifier Sachia Vickery, 6-3, 6-4.