Serena Williams To Face Naomi Osaka In First Round Of Miami Open

Serena To Face Naomi Osaka In First Round Of Miami Open
Serena Williams of the United States swings through on a return to Marion Bartoli during the Tie Break Tens tournament at Madison Square Garden, Monday, March 5, 2018 in New York. The Tie Break Tens’ New York event is a one-day day exhibition tournament featuring eight female players competing for a $250,000 winner’s prize. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — It has never happened before: an opening-round match pitting a player who just won her first tennis title against a 23-time Grand Slam champion.

Naomi Osaka, a rising star who won Indian Wells on Sunday, will face Serena Williams in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday. It’s a freakishly difficult way for both players to start a tournament.

Serena To Face Naomi Osaka In First Round Of Miami Open

“The luck of the draw,” tournament director James Blake said Monday. “It’s great in one sense — we have an unbelievable blockbuster match for Wednesday. But one of them is going to be gone unfortunately by Thursday.”

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The marquee matchup at the outset of the two-week tournament came about because neither player is seeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best No. 22, while Williams is ranked No. 491 after becoming a mother and returning to the tour at Indian Wells following a layoff of more than a year.

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Osaka, a 20-year-old slugger from Japan, earned the biggest victory her career when she beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in the Indian Wells final. Along with the title she won $1.3 million, nearly doubling her career earnings.

Serena lost in the third round at Indian Wells to her sister Venus. An eight-time Key Biscayne champion, Serena enters the tournament as a wild card and has never faced Osaka.

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“We’ll see a lot of heavy hitting,” Blake said. “Both of them hit the ball so big. There are a lot of story lines. How is Naomi going to react to winning her first big title? There’s the cross-country flight. Is she going to be nervous playing Serena now that expectations are higher?”

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Osaka lost just one set at Indian Wells and beat Maria Sharapova and top-ranked Simona Halep en route to the title.

“But anyone who is counting Serena out,” Blake said, “is doing so at their peril.”



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