In a section of that draw that has lost both seeds, Timea Babos and Naomi Osaka will be battling for a spot in the last 16 of the Miami Open. This match-up is strangely compelling to me so i’m going all out with a preview! 😀
Babos enjoyed a big win on Friday, taking out last week’s Indian Wells semi-finalist, Karolina Pliskova, 5-7 6-2 7-6(0). Babos failed on three occasions to wrap up the match, unable to serve it out at *5-2, *5-4 and *6-5. However, in a rather strange twist, Babos then scored a tiebreak bagel to record her first ever win over Pliskova in four matches.
Babos has had an encouraging year up till now, reaching the semi-finals of Shenzhen, the quarter-finals of St. Petersburg and the third round in Doha. Her year stalled somewhat in the last two tournaments with first round losses in Monterrey (to Polona Hercog, 3-6 2-6) and Indian Wells (to Lesia Tsurenko, 5-7 4-6). Furthermore, she’s had a few situations where she has been in a winning position but failed to take her opportunities. In St. Petersburg, Babos served for the match in the quarter-finals against Vinci but lost out in a third set tiebreak. This highlights the magnitude of the win over Pliskova.
Osaka is in the midsts of what appears to be a breakthrough year on the WTA tour; the Japanese player has already risen nearly 100 places since the end of 2015 and is knocking on the door of the world’s top 100. Osaka is at 16 match wins in 2016, which includes successfully qualifying for the main draws in Brisbane, Hobart and Melbourne.
Osaka edged a tight three setter in her first round match against Pauline Parmentier, 6-2 2-6 6-2. On Friday, she produced a stunning display to take out the number 14 seed, Sara Errani, 6-1 6-3. Osaka was electric on serve in the first set, not dropping a point behind it. Osaka is sound off both wings but that forehand is SPECIAL. The 18-year-old lost her early break in the second set as Errani, playing more aggressively and mixing in drop shots and angles too, mounted a mini-comeback. However, Osaka refocused to win the final two games and close out the match on yet another forehand winner.
Head-to-head record: This will be the first time that Babos and Osaka have played each other on the WTA tour.
Interesting stat: Both players will be seeking to reach the last 16 of a WTA Premier Mandatory tournament for the first time in their career.
Final thoughts: I’m fascinated by this match and it’s a huge opportunity for both players. Babos has much more experience on the WTA tour, but Osaka seems to be the more focused player mentally and has a calm about her on court, even if this is not what’s going on in her head! Babos has some hefty groundstrokes but Osaka shouldn’t be overrawed. I’d fancy a close match but i’m going with Osaka…