Naomi Osaka Defeats Her Idol Serena Williams in First Round of the Miami Open
(March 21, 2018) – Twenty-year-old Naomi Osaka, fresh off of her tournament victory at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday defeated her idol Serena Williams 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday. Williams was playing just her fourth match after returning to the tour since having a baby in September. She lost to her sister Venus in the third round of Indian Wells last week.
Williams who is still shaking out the cobwebs in her comeback, smiled at the net after defeat. She declined to do a news conference but issued the following statement through the WTA:
Serena Williams has released a 61-word quote through the WTA. pic.twitter.com/mQzr1InMKI
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) March 21, 2018
In her on-court interview after the match, the Japanese woman admitted that she was nervous and excited to play her idol: “I wanted to impress her. And I wanted to make her say ‘come on’ one time and I think she did so I’m really happy about that.”
Oska said that she found out about the Miami Open draw, three hours after winning the BNP Paribas Open.
Asked about her reaction that she’d be playing the 36-year-old Serena Williams:
“Super happy,” she said. “Yeah, just really excited, because I have always wanted to play her. So to get the opportunity, I was just really happy. It was sort of like a dream.”
Osaka whose title at Indian Wells was her first on the WTA Tour, showed no sign of a letdown from this past weekend.
“I was nervous going into it, but then, like, when the match started, after the first three games, then I was okay,” said Osaka to media about playing her idol.
“Well, because she’s the main reason why I started playing tennis, and just, I have seen her on TV so many times and I have always been cheering for her, so for me to play against her and just sort of trying to detach myself a little bit from thinking that I’m playing against her and just try to think I’m playing against just a regular opponent was a little bit hard for me.”
The new No. 22 in the world is now 14-4 on the year.
Williams’ loss in the first round of Miami is first time she has lost in the opening round of a US hard-court event in 21-years. The 23-time major winner, eighth-time winner of this event, came into the tournament with a wildcard due to her time off the tour. She currently has a ranking of 491 in the world.
Asked by a reporter if she felt Williams was struggling with her movement, Osaka said: “I’m going to be really honest. I wasn’t paying attention if she was struggling or not. I was just trying to make my balls in and stuff. Like, if you’re playing against someone that’s, like, the greatest player, I’m not trying to look over on that side of the court too much, because I think I would freak myself out a little bit. Then I would start thinking if she’s struggling, if she’s not struggling, if I should be doing this, if I should be doing that.
“So I just tried to, like, look on my side of the court and not think too much about what she was doing.”
Osaka’s road does not get any easier, as she’ll take on No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina in the second round.
In the match before Osaka and Williams took the court on Wednesday afternoon, another mother and former No. 1 on the comeback trail, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus beat young American Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.
Azarenka evaluated her performance to last week at Indian Wells:
“Well, I mean, it’s hard to compare those two wins — I mean, two tournaments, because Indian Wells was my first tournament after a long break and kind of unexpected tournament, so I had a little bit more time to just prepare and actually get in the rhythm of everyday training and kind of being back in the zone.
“So I feel like I have done some improvement in that little period of time, which I feel like I usually do pretty well. You know, first tournaments can be really rusty for me and to get and find the emotions that I put in.
“But today I felt that — I was just nervous before the match, because I haven’t played in a while and I want to do so well. So I put a lot of kind of pressure on myself to do well. I think you could see that in the first couple games.
“But then I just relaxed and I found my game and I stepped on the pedal and didn’t take it off.”
Azarenka will face US Open finalist Madison Keys, the 14th seed in the next round.