Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button
NewsScoresRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastShopPro GearPickleballGear Sale

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Saturday, March 23, 2024


In a match of moms, Naomi Osaka beat Elina Svitolina 6-2, 7-6(5) to advance to a Miami Open third-round showdown vs. Caroline Garcia.

Photo credit: Miami Open/Hard Rock Stadium

Refining her footwork has been a priority for Naomi Osaka in her comeback this season.

Fueled by fast feet and ferocious firepower, Osaka took a big step forward in Miami.

Wozniacki on Halep: If Someone Tests Positive, Should Get Wild Cards

In an entertaining match of moms, Osaka defeated Elina Svitolina 6-2, 7-6(5) triumph to reach the Miami Open third round for the fourth consecutive time.

This was arguably Osaka’s most complete match of the season against a former world No. 3 who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last July and had split six prior meetings with the Japanese superstar.

Asked afterward if she considered it her premier performance of the season, Osaka agreed.

"Yeah, I definitely do think it was one of my best matches, if not the best match," Osaka told the media in Miami. "But I also want myself to play better and better every match.

"I don't know. I feel like for me going into the match, I knew that she's a great player, and I had no choice but to play really well if I wanted a chance to win. So yeah.."

A brilliant counter-strike player, particularly off her versatile two-handed backhand, Svitolina extended points with sharp defensive skills and broke back when Osaka served for the match at 5-3.

Former world No. 1 Osaka spread the service box shrewdly, serving 59 percent, pumping 5 aces and saving three of four break points in a 90-minute triumph.

Firing the wide serve effectively to set up first-strike forehands, Osaka did a much better job of moving around her backhand, giving herself space on the forehand and smacking that shot with complete confidence.

Osaka said seeing Svitolina, mom to daughter Skai, make a successful return from maternity leave and perform at such a high level has been inspiring in her comeback after giving birth to daughter Shai.

Playing her 12th match in the last 18 months as she took a break from tennis for mental health and to give birth to her first child, daughter Shai, Osaka was reading the ball off Svitolina’s racquet and decisive in her shot selection.

“I think, for me, when I think of Svitolina, I think of her as a fighter,” Osaka said. “I feel like she's the type of person that would never give up on a single ball. Obviously that's why she is where she is right now.

“I also feel like it's really incredible for her to have had a kid and already doing so well and winning so many matches. But I don't know. When I think of her, I just think of her as, like, a really amazing tennis player. I don't put a rival label on it. I honestly don't put that label on anyone except Barty. So hopefully she comes back too and she's inspired.”

Photo credit: Miami Open/Hard Rock Stadium

Sending Svitolina scurrying to run down crosscourt forehands, Osaka blasted a backhand crosscourt winner to break for 4-2.

On her second set point, Osaka pounded away at the Svitolina forehand drawing a floated error to break and snatch a one-set lead.

Jolting strikes were flowing like all the right answers on an exam as Osaka rolled through 12 of 13 points, including eight straight points, breaking for 4-2 and backing up the break at 15 for 5-2.

Though she looked down and out, Svitolina showed why she’s earned so much respect for her fighting spirit.

AS husband Gael Monfils watched from the corner of the court, Svitolina began stepping closer to the line, hit her forehand with more force and jumped out to a triple break point lead when Osaka served for the match at 5-3.

The world No. 17 broke back then held for 5-all.

Svitolina stamped a love hold to force the tiebreaker.

Crackling rallies escalated in the tiebreaker. Svitolina saved a match point at 4-6.

Undaunted, Osaka ripped a running forehand in the corner to close a high quality victory in 90 minutes.

Next up for Osaka is her third clash in the first three months of the season against former world No. 4 Garcia.

The Frenchwoman rocketed 13 aces and did not face a break point, stopping former No. 1 Osaka 6-4, 7-6(2) in a superb Australian Open opener last January.

Riding an imposing first serves and timely strikes, Osaka defeated Garcia 7-5, 6-4 in Doha last month.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka posted her first Top 50 victory since the 2022 Miami Open in that match.

Asked her thoughts on facing Garcia, Osaka jokingly replied "Let me hear her thoughts first."

"Man, we're friends at this point. We're just, you know, work buddies," Osaka said of Garcia. "We see each other all the time. It's funny. I just want to be seeded so I can just stop playing her, like...

"I mean, my thoughts? She's an amazing player. I know this. Every match we play is really difficult. It's just going to be interesting playing on these courts because I really like these hard courts."

All seven of Osaka's career championships have come on her preferred hard courts.

The winner of their next Miami meeting will face either US Open champion Coco Gauff or Oceane Dodin in the round of 16.

Tennis is all about being and becoming: playing to your present strength while trying to progress.

Nearly three full months into her comeback, Osaka said she's focusing on two primary goals: keep improving and be true to herself by playing her assertive style regardless of opponent.

"Honestly, I feel like just not playing well in Indian Wells. I truthfully really hated my last performance there," said Osaka, who fell to Indian Wells doubles champion Elise Mertens in the desert. "I think I wasn't playing like myself and I wasn't dictating the point.

"I feel like there are certain things that make a player a player. For me, it's dictating the points and, like, having a great serve. Those two things obviously weren't done well in that match.

"I just want to have progression and I want to go out like myself, even if I win or lose."


Latest News