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Osaka charges Past Kerber in battle of multiple Grand Slam champs at Miami

Naomi Osaka cruised past Angelique Kerber in a battle of former Grand Slam juggernauts to set a third round clash with Karolina Muchova at Miami.

Naomi Osaka, Miami 2022 Naomi Osaka, Miami 2022 © Panoramic

On paper, Naomi Osaka’s second-round battle with No 15-seeded Angelique Kerber looked like a hornet’s nest. In reality it was a day at the beach for the four-time Grand Slam champion, who rallied past the German – and the wind – with ease to win 6-3, 6-2.

Osaka has played on successive days at Miami – she defeated Astra Sharma 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday.

“I learned a lot yesterday, so I just wanted to continue on that,” Osaka said. “I’m actually really glad that I played a match back-to-back, because I haven’t done that in a while. It was a really good experience for me.”

24-year-old Osaka improves to 8-2 in 2022 with the victory and snaps a four-match losing streak against Kerber in their first meeting since the 2018 WTA Finals (2-4 overall). She will face Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic in the third round at Miami.

The 77th-ranked Japanese star said that the wind was tricky, but nothing close to what she encountered two weeks ago at Indian Wells, when she moved past Sloane Stephens in swirling, gusty conditions in her opening-round match.

“I was telling Wim [Fissette] this earlier. I played Sloane at Indian Wells and in that match, I couldn’t even toss the ball to serve,” said Osaka. “It was always blowing away, so I’m glad I played there because I feel like after that there is no type of wind that can bother me.”

Assist to Caroline Wozniacki?

There is nothing like a bit of extra motivation before a big match with a rival, and that came to Osaka in the form of a comment from former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki earlier in the week. Now a Tennis Channel analyst, Wozniacki was asked who would be around in the third round of Osaka’s section of the draw. Instead of tabbing Osaka, she picked Kerber and Leylah Fernandez to reach the third round. It’s the kind of thing analysts do on television without blinking an eye, and quite often without much conviction, but Osaka used the Dane’s words as fuel. Here’s how she explained it:

“Caroline Wozniacki was commentating, and they were like, ‘Oh, who do you think is going to make it out of this section?'” she said, adding: She’s, like, “I think Kerber and Fernandez are going to play each other. … So I was kind of thinking about it in my head a lot during when I was playing just now.

“I don’t know if that was the reason the score was why it was today – I don’t really say I had like a vendetta, but I was like, ‘Hmm, I know I was kind of underachieving these last couple of months, but I still feel like I’m a pretty good player.'”

Not sure if Muchova was watching the same telecast, but she took out Fernandez today, 6-4, 7-6(3).

A stellar performance from Osaka

Osaka was dominant from start to finish against Kerber, powering 33 winners against 13 unforced errors and winning 24 of 27 first-serve points.

“She’s like the first high-seeded player I’ve beaten this year,” Osaka said of her first match against a top-20 player in 2022. “I feel like I came into the match wanting to dictate. My power on the shots was working really well.”

Osaka cracked six aces and saved both break points she faced, while converting four of her seven break points to close out her triumph in one hour.

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