MIAMI (AFP, REUTERS) – Women’s tennis world No. 1 Naomi Osaka of Japan opened her campaign at the WTA and ATP Miami Open on Friday (March 22) by outlasting Yanina Wickmayer 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1.
Since winning her second consecutive Grand Slam title in January at the Australian Open, Osaka has failed to go deep in Dubai or Indian Wells.
But she appeared in sold form against 141st-ranked Wickmayer, digging deep after the Belgian forced a third set.
“I had to work hard out there,” Osaka said. “In the second set, I got really emotional, so in the third, I just tried to shut off my feelings.”
Osaka advanced to a third-round match-up against Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-wei, who defeated American Alison Riske 6-2, 7-5.
Osaka broke twice for a 3-0 lead in the first set and blitzed through the final set as well to capture her first match in two hours and nine minutes after an opening-round bye.
On the men’s side, there was disappointment for her compatriot Kei Nishikori. The fifth seed lost to Serb Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
He had a first-round bye and appeared headed for a routine victory until Lajovic, who was misfiring in the early stages of the match, suddenly stepped up his game.
“He definitely raised his level (in the) second and third sets. He wasn’t missing much like in the first set. He served well in the end,” said Nishikori.
Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem’s bid for a ‘Sunshine Slam’ met with a quick end as he fell 6-4, 6-4 to Hubert Hurkacz in the second, while world No. 1 Novak Djokovic wasted little time in dispatching Bernard Tomic.
The 22-year-old Hurkacz broke third seed Thiem four times, including in the final games of each set, to record the biggest win of his career.
Austrian Thiem, who beat Roger Federer on March 17 to win his first career Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open, was uncharacteristically sloppy on the Grandstand court.
Later, Serena Williams survived an “irresponsible” second-set lapse to see off Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 in her second-round opener.
“I wasn’t really happy with my performance,” admitted the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion.
She playing in just her third tournament of 2019, having lost in the Australian Open quarter-finals before retiring in the second set of her third-round match against Garbine Muguruza with a viral illness at Indian Wells last week.
“Had to take a lot of time off the last week,” she said. “It’s definitely not easy at all. But I’m through it. That’s that. I’ve just got to get my game back to where I know it can be.
“I told myself at the end of the second set that I could not lose this match.”