The highlight of day 5 at the French Open is undoubtedly the clash between the current World No.1 and two time slam champ Naomi Osaka and a former No.1 in Victoria Azarenka. Osaka is currently riding a 15 match winning streak at slams after her US and Australian Open titles.
Azarenka navigated a potentially tricky clash with Jelena Ostapenko, defeating the Latvian in straight sets 6-4 7-6. The 2017 champion has been poor for a long time but can always be dangerous with her fearsome power. Azarenka broke 7 times in the win, helped by 17 double faults for her opponent. “So for the first round, that was obviously, for me, something very dangerous [Ostapenko’s lack of rhythm] because it’s important to get into the rhythm, into the tournament. And with a player like that, you need to find a way to win, and I felt that today that’s what it was.” she said afterwards.
Osaka avoided joining a rare club of World No.1’s to lose in the opening round at Roland Garros, fighting back to defeat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in three sets 0-6 7-6 6-1. It was a disastrous start for her as she errored her way to a bagel in the opening set. She was as close as two points away from an exit but broke back twice to find herself in a tiebreak, taking it and easing from there. “I think this is the most nervous I have ever been my entire life during a match,” she admitted afterwards. “For me, today was weird because usually the nerves go away, but it kind of stayed the entire match. Then I just felt like it was a fight of willpower. I managed to win in the end.”
The pair have played twice before with heavy wins for both players – Azarenka in Melbourne and Osaka in Rome last year. It would be a surprise were Osaka to win with ease as she did last year but she does remain the favourite, even with the added pressure she is facing in this tournament. Azarenka will be facing someone with far more controlled power than Ostapenko this time round and won’t be able to afford giving up her serve at ease like she did in round one.
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in three sets