Australian Open 2019, quarter-final: Naomi Osaka vs Elina Svitolina- Preview and prediction
Two young players, who had the biggest breakthroughs of their nascent tennis careers in the previous season, will lock horns at the quarterfinals of the first grand slam of the 2019 season. The 20-year-old Japanese Naomi Osaka won her first ever grand slam singles title at the US Open last year and the 24-year old Ukrainian Elina Svitolina won the year-end WTA finals title in Singapore.
However, neither of them has done much of note after their career-defining title triumphs. In fact, since that epic WTA Finals win in October, Svitolina has played all of one match before the Australian Open. That match was at the Brisbane International, a preparatory tournament for the Australian Open, where she lost to the unheralded Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
She came to the year’s first grand slam under-prepared, but she has shrugged that off by playing some good tennis to reach her second successive Australian Open quarter-final. Her first two opponents, Viktorija Golubic and Viktoria Kuzumova, were no match for her in terms of quality and that helped her ease into the tournament through two easy straight-set wins.
However, she has had to fight her way out of tough situations in the previous two rounds, against quality opponents. She came back from a set down against both Zhang Shuai and 17th seed Madison Keys to win two back-to-back three-setters.
The match against Shuai was competitive for much of the duration, and the one against Keys was a topsy-turvy one with dramatic momentum shifts, as is evident from a schizophrenic score-line of 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.
Like Svitolina, the fourth seed Japanese youngster too has not had much success after her epic US Open final win over Serena Williams. She has not been able to win a single WTA title after her US Open triumph. She has not been at her best in this tournament as well but has done enough to reach the last eight stage.
Her run to the quarters has been pretty similar to that of Svitolina. After winning her first two rounds in straight sets against lesser opponents, Magda Linette and Tamara Zidansek, she has struggled in the last two rounds. Against both Hsieh Su-Wei and Anastasija Sevastova, she went a set down before recovering in time to get the better of them.
Osaka and Svitolina have contrasting styles of play. Osaka has a big serve and heavy groundstrokes. She likes to dictate the play as much as possible like her idol, Serena Williams. On the other hand, Svitolina is a more solid player with terrific retrieving skills. She is a supreme athlete against whom hitting winners is quite tough.
In this tournament though, both of them have struggled with their serves. Svitolina has surrendered her serve eight times so far. Surprisingly, Naomi Osaka, one of the biggest servers in the game has lost her serve a whopping nine times in four matches.
This promises to be an intriguing match between two great players who are clearly not at their best, at the moment.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina to win in three Sets