It’s not often you get a blockbuster match in the opening round of tournaments like this given seeds get a first round bye but we have one on Wednesday afternoon when Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka plays Serena Williams. Serena is an 8 time champion in Miami, most recently winning in 2015.
With the draw for this event being made on Sunday, Osaka does not get to take advantage of the new ranking she has after winning Indian Wells. Her stunning run saw her outplay some of the top players in the game right now, including a 6-3 6-0 win over No.1 Simona Halep. Now ranked just outside the top 20, the Japanese is a major threat for anyone right now.
Serena won two matches at Indian Wells (Diyas, Bertens) before her run was ended by Venus Williams. She was mostly outplayed by her sister, struggling quite a bit on serve. She won just 51% on serve in the 6-3 6-4 loss, numbers way below what you expect from the player with the best serve in the game. “I haven’t played in over a year,” Serena said afterwards, recognising there’s still a long way to go. “Losing is definitely not less disappointing. I wish it were, but it’s not. But then again, I wish it wasn’t. Then I wouldn’t be who I am. So I just have a long way to go, and I’m looking forward to the journey.”
For Osaka, playing some of the players she idolised growing up is a dream. “There’s basically three people I want to play: Venus, Maria, and Serena. I ticked two off, so now I’m just waiting to play Serena, I’m looking forward to that.” Osaka said in Indian Wells. A few years ago, being starstruck may have been a reasonable response. Now, going into matches like this with the confidence she can win is far more appropriate.
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in three sets