For the second slam running, Naomi Osaka and Cori Gauff are set to face off in the third round of a grand slam. Defending champion Osaka won the first in New York, easing to a comfortable 6-3 6-0 win against the young American. She will hope to do the same against an opponent who now has more experience of the big occasion.
There hasn’t been a great deal of focus on the defending champion through the opening two rounds and she has been able to ease past two weaker opponents with the minimum of fuss to get to this stage. She beat both Marie Bouzkova and Saisai Zheng 6-2 6-4 to move to this stage. After it looked like she was struggling to deal with the raised expectations following this title last year, her Asian swing suggested a corner had been turned as she won the title in both Osaka and Beijing. “The only thing that may have changed is that people might want to beat me more. I didn’t deal with that well after this tournament last year, I’ll tell you. Now I think of it as a nice challenge. Someone wanting to play their best against me is something I have to feel fortunate about, because it’s how I get better.” Osaka said.
After defeating Venus Williams again in round one, Gauff had to show all her battling qualities to get past Sorana Cirstea in round two, 4-6 6-3 7-5. She came from a set down to win while also securing a vital hold from 15-30 at *4-5 before breaking on the way to victory. She is now 4-0 in three set matches in slam main draws, an impressive statistic even at this early stage.
Gauff will hope that she can do better than their meeting at the US Open but it was clear that on that occasion, it was a step up in class from opponents she had played in previous rounds at both her slams despite the high level of talent from the 15 year-old. This could be the case again with Osaka well placed to expose the youngsters limitations on the big stage right now. “At the US Open I was nervous. It was my first time on Ashe. For sure I’ll be more confident because I’ve felt her ball before.” Gauff said. “We’re both familiar with each other’s games. She plays really aggressive. This time coming in I’m going to be more aggressive.”
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in straight sets