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Naomi Osaka is surging in Miami, but Belinda Bencic poses a big threat

Naomi Osaka reached the semi-finals at the Miami Open on Tuesday, but a massive challenge awaits her.

Naomi Osaka, Miami 2022 Naomi Osaka, Miami 2022 © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Naomi Osaka put forth a flawless performance to knock off American Danielle Collins on Tuesday night in Miami, dropping just nine points on serve to derail the feisty No 9 seed, 6-2, 6-1, and produce her deepest ever run at the Miami Open.

Next up? A spicy semi-final with similarly surging Belinda Bencic. Neither player is currently in the top-20 (Osaka 77 and Bencic 28) but a victory in the semi-finals could be a bridge back to a much higher ranking…

Collins, who was clearly fatigued and dealing with some pain in her upper body, was no match for the aggressive mindset of Osaka. That has been a theme this week for the four-time Grand Slam champion. Osaka has yet to drop more than four games in a set, and she improved to 10-2 on the season with her latest statement win, which improves her record to 2-0 against the top-20 in 2022.

“I feel like I’m the type of person that plays better with more matches, so actually having back-to-back matches benefits me a lot,” Osaka said. “But, yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m surprised with the result, but I’m more, I don’t know, I feel like I’m becoming a better player, so I’m kind of intrigued on how I play, like, different opponents.”

But Bencic, who has won all three tour-level meetings contested with Osaka, should provide a stiffer challenge.

Osaka – learned a lot from a challenging experience at Indian Wells

Osaka’s success this week in Miami is a sign of her resilience. She was devastated at Indian Wells when a heckler threw her off her game during her second-round loss to Veronika Kudermetova, but the former world No 1 immediately went back to work, addressing the problem by speaking with a therapist. She has come to Miami exhibiting determination and strength in addition to her world-class tennis.

“My last match that I lost there, I was completely frazzled, but going into Indian Wells my intention was to be pretty chill, and then that thing happened,” Osaka said last week, referring to her troubles during the Kudermetova match. “Now that I’m here, I’m just like no matter what happens, I won’t let anything stop like my behavior and how like I put out energy in the world, if that makes sense. So I don’t know. Like clearly I have come here to do well, but if that doesn’t happen, I just want people to remember me for being a fighter.”

Bencic presents a big challenge for Osaka

It has been a special week for Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic as well. The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist has been in rude form, not dropping a set through four rounds (just 17 games dropped in eight sets) to reach her first 1000-level semi-final since Madrid in 2019.

Bencic struggled to get healthy after contracting Covid-19 during Christmas. After Doha, she took a trip to the Slovakian mountains and said the fresh air and time off court helped her set her body right.

“I’m really happy I reached a great result here and everything else is a bonus,” she said after toppling Daria Saville on Tuesday, 6-1, 6-2. “I’m going to, yeah, enjoy and do the best I can.”

Famously, Bencic won three consecutive matches against Osaka, at Indian Wells, Madrid and the US Open in 2019. Her smothering baseline game seemed to take the fizz out of Osaka’s power each time the met.

Their semi-final will be a great test for each, as both seek a prestigious final in Miami, and the chance to show the world that they are ready to make a charge back up the WTA rankings.

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