A fit and happy Naomi Osaka would be a welcome addition back to the women’s tour these days, especially with the shock retirement of Ashleigh Barty only last week. The four-time slam winner has played sparingly recently for numerous reasons but had been showing signs of improvement. That will be put to the test in her toughest match so far, facing Danielle Collins for a spot in the semi final.
Having played just one match since her superb Australian Open run, there may have been expectations that Collins would be a little rusty. A tight three setter to open the tournament was much improved on by straight sets win her last two, most recently against Ons Jabeur 6-2 6-4. She dropped serve just once and rarely looked in danger against the Tunisian. “”I’ve had some of my best results after coming back from injuries or having a little bit of time off at the end of the year. I try to tell myself that when I feel a little off or rusty.” she said
Osaka at her best is known for hitting players off the court but the impressive thing in her 6-3 6-4 win over Alison Riske was the digging deep in the key moments and key games. Two first set holds where she saved a combined nine break points and a 15-40 hold in the second set were decisive in determining the fate of both sets. “I also think normally I can kind of overpower people, but she was on the forehand, slapping it back in an odd way that made it kind of hard for me to hit away from her. That’s what I knew I needed to do in order to beat her in the match. It kind of just felt like she had answers for some of the things that I was doing, so we were both adjusting from there.” Osaka said after.
Osaka may have been benefitting from lower expectations this fortnight but with everyone familiar with her ability, those will soon be ramped back up for the Japanese. Collins will be able to match her power so it could be once again who delivers in decisive moments. Osaka does lead the head to head 2-0 but the American is much improved from even 2019 and will be heading into the rankings at a new career high of No. 8 whatever happens from this stage on.
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in three sets