Miami Open – Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic Open with Wins Along with Defending Champions John Isner and Sloane Stephens
All photos by Chad Lominick.
(March 22, 2019) MIAMI, FL – Top seeds Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic began their campaigns for the Miami Open title on Friday with wins. Djokovic made quick work of Australian Bernard Tomic 7-6, 6-2 while Osaka had a bigger challenge beating qualifier Yanina Wickmayer 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-1.
“I’m really happy that I was able to win the match,” Osaka said. “It was really hard for me, I think, emotionally in the second set because I just started thinking about winning, not exactly the things I could do in order to win.
“So, yeah, I had a bit of a dip. She was also playing really well. I think between the second and third set I tried to breathe and regroup.”
“It’s the first match I’ve played here,“ said the Japanese player. “I wasn’t able to defend in Indian Wells, so of course I really want to do well here.”
Osaka blew 14 aces past her Belgian opponent.
She’ll face the tricky No. 27 seed Hsieh Su-wei in the third round.
“She’s unpredictable,” said Osaka. “She can hit winners from anywhere it seems like. She has a slice, dropshot. Feels like she has everything. For me it’s tough to play her because I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s that unpredictability that I think makes her play really well and beat all the top people.
“Yeah, it should be really tough tomorrow.”
Djokovic who has won the last three straight majors talked about his success and coming back from surgery: “The last 10 to 12 months have been really special. I mean, unlike anything I have experienced before in my career, that’s for sure. Considering 12 months ago, the way I was playing, post surgery and everything, to be where I am today is quite phenomenal really.
“I’m proud of it. Also would not have done it without the support of the team and family and everyone who was with me there. But I think that injury, the process of getting back to my top level, makes this journey even more special.
“Definitely has taught me, showed me things about myself that I’ve not known before. I had to really dig deep in those moments where I was really doubting everything. It’s quite a journey and I’m grateful to go through that experience.”
As for the new court, Djokovic said: “It feels like indoor a little bit. It’s quite different conditions than from playing on the outside courts where it’s quite windy during the day. Center court has literally no sun after 1 p.m. It does feel like an indoor a little bit.
“But it’s a nice court. They’ve done a really good job. They have taken I think q very bold step forward in the right direction, this tournament. For us being part of the Dolphin, Miami Dolphins Stadium, is a treat. Hopefully we can have even more people filling out the stadium in the next days.”
Eight-time Miami winner Serena Williams overcame Rebecca Peterson 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. The 23-time major champion had problems with the extreme sunlight on Stadium Court in the new site for the tournament in Hard Rock Stadium.
“It was interesting because first of all it was dark out there, which was really odd. I wasn’t sure if there should be lights,” noted Williams. “The shadow was so intense it was actually dark.
“Then there was light, but only on my side. That was weird because I literally couldn’t see. Every time she hit, Okay, do I lob? But whatever.”
“I’m not really thinking about my match too much today. I wasn’t really happy with my performance. Had to take a lot of time off the last week, so I don’t know. Just going.”
After the second set drubbing, the 10th seeded Williams said that she told herself: “I could not lose this match. I knew that I could play a lot, lot, lot better. I just had to be better. At this point it was irresponsible to be playing the way I was playing in the second set, so…
“That determination was, I cannot lose this match just really kicked in.”
“It was a different court, but it was a beautiful court,” said Williams, who is a part owner of the Miami Dolphins who play in the stadium. “It’s so different from anything I’ve played on in my entire career, so I was super excited.”
Sister Venus overcame a slow start to beat No. 24 seed Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6(4), 6-1.
Defending champion John Isner nailed 20 aces to oust qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7).
Defending women’s champion Sloane Stephens defeated Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-3.
“It’s tough when somebody doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm,” the American said about her opponent’s play. “ She can hit some great shots. You have to be ready for that and accept that during the match because that’s just what she does.
“It was tough, but happy to be through.”
“Obviously when you play someone like that, it’s really tricky. You can’t expect too much from yourself, just to play consistent.
“I think I stayed focused, made as many balls as I could, ran down as many balls as I could, made her play a little bit extra.
“When you play someone like that, your expectations cannot be too high. I was happy with the way I played.”
Fresh off of his Indian Wells title, the biggest title of his career, No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem, of Austria lost his opening match to Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-4.
Bianca Andreescu, who won the Indian Wells women’s title last week extended her winning streak to 9 on Friday when she beat No. 32 Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-3. This is the third time in three events that the Canadian has played the American. Kenin was the last person to beat her at the Acapulco events.
“I got a sense of how she plays,“ noted Andreescu. “Obviously I was expecting the right things. I definitely played a lot better than in Acapulco.”
Andreescu survived a match point in her opening match to advance.
Caroline Wozniacki bested Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 6-4 in a close contest.
“Honestly, I just fought well.,” said the Dane who is the 13th seed.. “I didn’t think I played particularly well today. I just kept fighting. There were games when I felt like I played fine, pretty good, then there were games where I said, What am I doing?
“It was a constant battle of just trying to win. Sometimes you just need to fight through.”
Wozniacki calls this year’s tournament a fresh start. Last year she was ousted by Monica Puig in a match in which had issues with fans who were harassing her family members in the stands. She threatened not to come back to the tournament, but she has returned and explained why she’s back.
“First of all, they changed the venue, which I think for the first year coming back it was probably good for me,” she said. “I do love Key Biscayne. I think Key Biscayne is an amazing place. I think it had charm, a lot of things that moving out here doesn’t.
“At the same time moving venues, I think it also changed, it feels like a new tournament. That was one of the reasons.
“The second reason was I need to play. I need to go out there and I need to play. I wanted to play. I was like, Doesn’t matter what happened last year, I’m just going to go out there and do my best, see what happens.”
“I see there’s signs out there by the fans. If there is people that are not acting up to par, you can text the tournament. I think that’s something new that they’ve introduced this year.”
No. 5 Kei Nishikori was upset by Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“He definitely raise his level second and third,” said Nishikori. “He start playing more solid from the baseline. He wasn’t missing much like first set. He served well in the end.
“Maybe I didn’t play quite my best today. Yeah, credit to him today.”
“It’s obviously tough loss from last week, not playing quite best. But, I mean, I’m not playing bad or terrible. I try to keep head up. Clay court season is coming. It’s completely new season.
“I try to have good practice, two more weeks, and be ready for Monte-Carlo.”
Gael Monfils, the 16th seed, had to withdraw from the tournament, due to an Achilles injury that caused him to pull out of Indian Wells last week. the other half of tennis’ current “it” couple, No. 6th seed Elina Svitolina is also out of the tournament, losing to Yafan Wang 6-2, 6-4 in her opening round.