Once again, there is more than a hefty amount of prize money at stake for Naomi Osaka as she enters the Miami Open.
The two-time grand slam champion is targeting a strong run at the Hard Rock Stadium in order to maintain her place as the top ranked player on the WTA Tour. Osaka became Asia’s first ever No.1 on January 28th following her Australian Open triumph. However, since then she has failed to reach the quarter-finals at two consecutive tournaments. Losing in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships to Kristina Mladenovic, and in the fourth round of Indian Wells to Belinda Bencic.
“Miami is a tournament that I grew up watching. Since I live in South Florida, I literally went to the venue and watched all the pros, and I always wanted to be like them. I’m fortunate enough to be in this situation now.” Osaka said after her loss to Bencic.
A total of five players have a shot of becoming world No.1 by the time the tournament ends. The most straightforward way for Osaka to maintain her top spot is by reaching the final in Miami. This year will be her four main draw appearance in the tournament, but she is yet to progress beyond the third round and has lost in the second round the past two years. Osaka can also remain No.1 if she reaches the quarter-finals and Simona Halep or Petra Kvitova doesn’t win the title.
Kvitova has already been agonisingly close to the top spot. Losing in the final of the Australian Open to Osaka in a match where the winner became world No.1. The Czech can claim the position by winning the tournament. If she reaches the final, she needs Osaka to lose before the fourth round.
Kvitova has already contested two finals this year, but Miami is statistically her worst performing Premier Mandatory event. Heading into this year, she has only won 50% (9/18) of matches player. She has never been further than the Quarter-final in Miami back in 2014. Although the Czech will be hoping the change of venue (Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium) will play in her favour.
Halep has achieved a win-loss of 12-5 so far this season, but she is yet to win a title. The Romanian’s chances of claiming the top spot is resting very much on how her other competitors perform. Should she reach her maiden Miami final, she would need Osaka to lose before the third round and both Kerber and Kvitova to not win the title.
Kerber has already spent a total of 34 weeks as the queen of the WTA rankings. Fresh off reaching the final in Indian Wells, which she lost to Bianca Andreescu, the German is hoping to continue her momentum. However, to dethrone Osaka she is required to win the title to have a chance. On top of that, Osaka must lose before the third round.
“Miami, it’s a new tournament completely. The conditions are completely different. Everything starts from zero.” Said Kerber.
“I’m really looking forward because for me, it’s the first time there with the new venue and everything.” She added.
Finally, Elina Svitolina is also required to win the tournament is she wants to become world No.1. Furthermore, she needs Osaka to not win a match and Kvitova to reach the final. A tough ask, but the women’s game is known for its unpredictability.
In the draw, all seeded players have a bye in the first round.
Race to No.1
Garbine Muguruza Reaches New Milestone As Swiatek Finds Her Groove At Australian Open
The two title contenders were in impressive form during their opening matches.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza extended her perfect run of first round wins at the Australian Open to 10 with a straightforward victory over France’s Clara Burel.
The former world No.1, who is yet to lose an opening match played at Melbourne Park in her career, required just under 90 minutes to see off Burel 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza broke her rival three consecutive times during the first set to win the opener in just over half an hour. Then in the second she eased to a 5-3 lead but failed to convert three match points. Muguruza was then broken in the following game before breaking back again to seal victory.
“It felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” Muguruza told reporters afterwards. “Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.’
“I’m very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”
On what is the ninth anniversary of her Melbourne Park debut. Muguruza is hoping to go one step further than she did back in 2020 and win the title. She has now won 27 matches at the Australian Open which makes it her second most successful Grand Slam in terms of wins. Her best is the French Open where she has recorded 29 victories.
Muguruza will next take on another French player in the shape of Alize Cornet. During her on-court interview on Tuesday she was asked about her net play which the Spaniard said is a reflection of her on-court personality.
“It’s just a journey of adapting to your character,” she said. “I’m an aggressive player on the court and I like to dominate. I train like that. I’m not like that outside but inside the court I’m aggressive.”
Swiatek and her new coach
Another winner on day two was former French Open champion Iga Swiatek who swept aside Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0. At the start of the match she was trailing 1-3 before fighting back by winning 11 games in a row. The Pole is playing in her 12th Grand Slam main draw and is hoping to go beyond the fourth round in Australia for the first time in her career.
“You could see that first few games were pretty tricky for me. With the sun, I know I got broken in my second service game,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”
Swiatek is in Melbourne with her new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his previous work with Agnieszka Radwanska. She admits the new collaboration is very much a work in progress but believes she is heading in the right direction with her new mentor.
“He didn’t change a lot at the beginning because he was good to continue the process that I’ve had. Too many changes would be really confusing,” she said of Wiktorowski.
“We’re focusing on different stuff. We’re working on my strengths, which is great, because it’s going to give me confidence. I’m going to be able to be more, like, proactive on court. We were working on some attack formations and offensive game.’
“But we also didn’t have time to work on everything that we wanted to because there is a lot to improve in terms of my volleys and maybe slice.”
Swiatek will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.
Petra Kvitova Links Lack Of Match Play, Health Issues To Australian Open Loss
The Czech reacts to her shock exit from Melbourne Park.
Former world No.2 Petra Kvitova has insisted that she still has the game to compete with the best players in the world after crashing out in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Kvitova, who reached the final in Melbourne Park back in 2019, only managed to win four games during her 6-2, 6-2, loss to Sorana Cirstea. The Czech looked out of sorts on court as she hit a staggering 39 unforced errors compared to only seven winners. She also only managed to win 41% of her second service points and was broken four times in the match. It is the third time in Kvitova’s career she has lost in the first round at the Australian Open after 2014 and 2018.
“I don’t have much to say. It wasn’t really going my way the whole month. That’s how it is, I think. It’s a sport, and I just have to fight through and be better at it,” said Kvitova.
“I think that she (Cirstea) likes my game, she just is going to it and she has to risk, and everything (she hit) was in. I think for her I think it’s a little bit tougher when she has to create the game, and this time it was just there and putting fast balls back.”
Kvitova’s loss comes during what has been a lacklustre start to the season. Earlier this month at the Adelaide International she suffered a shock loss to world No.221 Priscilla Hon. A week later in Sydney she managed to reach the second round before losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who had to pull out of the Australian Open due to injury.
Despite her disappointing results on the Tour, the two-time Grand Slam champion is confident she will be able to turn her season around as she outlines two reasons behind her recent performances.
“I think it’s (my game) still there. It’s just I think I didn’t play a lot of matches at the beginning of this year,” she explained. “I did have some health issues the whole month, as well, so it was tough to practice during home month.’
“It wasn’t really as easy this beginning of the season, but the season is long, so I hope that it will turn around.”
Kvitova has won 28 WTA titles in her career with the last of those occurring in March 2021 at the Qatar Open. She is now on the verge of dropping out of the world’s top 20 for a second time this season.
“I think I need the matches on the other side,” she admits. “It’s really tough to see the future right now after this loss. I know I have to, first of all, calm down and see clearly more after some days.’
“I have to have a few days off to make my rest better, so that definitely will be one of the main goals, and then for sure some preparation before the next tournaments.”
As for Cirstea, she will play Kristína Kučová in the second round.
Coco Gauff Reacts To Shock Australian Open Exit
The American produced an error-stricken performance at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Coco Gauff says ‘everything’ about her latest performance disappointed her after she suffered a surprise first round loss at the Australian Open.
The world No.16 struggled to find her footing on court throughout her 6-4, 6-2, loss to China’s Wang Qiang. A player who didn’t play a single match after the Olympic Games last year and started this season with two consecutive first round defeats. It is the first time the 17-year-old has failed to go beyond the first round of a Grand Slam since the 2020 US Open.
“I think today I came into the match and the first couple of games, even though they were close, I was making more errors than I was used to,” Gauff said afterwards.
Gauff’s latest experience at Melbourne Park saw her hit a staggering 38 unforced errors compared to only 15 winners. She also struggled behind her second serve where she won just 45% of the points.
The defeat is a stark contrast to earlier this month when the rising star looked to be on track to generating momentum on the Tour. In Adelaide she led world No.1 Ash Barty by a set and a break before losing. A week on from that she reached the semi-finals of another event before losing to eventual champion Madison Keys.
“I think just everything disappointed me about today,” she said. “I feel like in the preseason, like I worked really hard, and I felt like I was ready to have a good run here. Today I just didn’t perform well.
“And I think learning-wise, I think there’s a lot to learn from. I think I didn’t play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal. So I think next time coming into the first round of a slam, especially after a tough week before, I think I need to just play more free and focus on the moment.”
As Gauff is left to reflect on her performance, Wang is relishing her return to the winner’s circle. The 30-year-old has been ranked as high as 12th in the world and has won two WTA titles. In 2019 she reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
“I lost two times against her last year so I just tried my best and focus on the court,” said Wang, who is coached by Pat Cash.
Wang will play Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round.
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