(March 10, 2022) INDIAN WELLS, CA – Naomi Osaka won 12 out of the last 15 games in the blustery wind, 6 on the trot in the decider to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Thursday. It was the woman from Japan’s first career victory over the American in a battle between former US Open champions. In 2018, Osaka claimed her first career WTA crown at the event.
Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion is currently ranked 38th is in a resurgence having won her first tournament in four years a couple of weeks ago in Guadalajara , Mexico.
The former No. 1 Osaka who has won 2 US Opens and 2 Australian Open titles, is currently ranked at 78th in the world due to taking time off last year due to mental health issues and playing fewer tournaments.
“Honestly, I feel like I’m at peace with myself, which I think is a great feeling to have as a person,” Osaka said in her pre-tournament news conference.
As for the on-court conditions: “I haven’t played in wind like that for a while, so this was very new to me,” said Osaka. “I felt like I was fighting for my life. I was playing against her; I was playing against the wind. It was crazy. I just kept thinking she was going through the same circumstances as me, so I just had to will myself to try as hard as I could.”
This is her first time back in the California desert since 2019.
More to follow…..