Fixture: (3) Naomi Osaka vs (14) Garbine Muguruza
Date: 14 February 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021
Round: Fourth round (Round of 16)
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor Hardcourt
Prize money: AUD $80 million
Live Telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | India - Sony Six
Naomi Osaka vs Garbine Muguruza preview
There is no doubt that this is the biggest match of the women's draw at Melbourne Park so far. Both Osaka and Muguruza have held the World No. 1 ranking in the past, and they have also had remarkable success on these courts.
While Osaka claimed the title in a thriller over Petra Kvitova in 2019, Muguruza finished as the runner-up to Sofia Kenin last year. In addition to that, both Osaka and Muguruza have also been in scintillating form lately.
Ever since the WTA tour resumed last August, Osaka has been on an absolute roll. The Japanese is now on a 17-match unbeaten streak, which includes her third Grand Slam trophy at the 2020 US Open.
She reached the semifinals of the Gippsland trophy to start the new season, before giving a walkover to eventual champion Elise Mertens. At the Australian Open, Osaka has motored her way to the fourth round comfortably, dropping just 13 games on the way.
Even talented opponents such as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Caroline Garcia and last year's quarterfinalist Ons Jabeur weren't able to slow down the Japanese juggernaut.
If Osaka has looked dangerous, Muguruza has looked even scarier over the past two weeks. The Spaniard looks to have rediscovered her form since losing in the Round of 16 to Maria Sakkari at Abu Dhabi.
Muguruza pretty much schooled her early-round opponents at the Yarra Valley Classic last week, reaching the final while dropping just 10 games. Even though she did go down to World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the summit clash, Muguruza hasn't let the loss affect her morale.
The World No. 14 is back to business at the Australian Open, swatting aside her opponents with ease. Having conceded just eight games against Margarita Gasparyan and Ludmilla Samsonova in the first two rounds, Muguruza played her best match of the week against Zarina Diyas in the third round.
The Spaniard needed just 56 minutes to pulverize the 83rd-ranked Kazakh 6-1, 6-1.
Naomi Osaka vs Garbine Muguruza head-to-head
Naomi Osaka and Garbine Muguruza have never crossed paths on the tour before, so their current head-to-head stands at 0-0.
Naomi Osaka vs Garbine Muguruza prediction
This has all the makings of a classic. Both Naomi Osaka and Garbine Muguruza rely on their strong serve and aggressive hitting to get the better of their opponents, which is why it is hard to pick one in this face-off.
The thing that could make a difference in their mental strength, which is where Osaka edges ahead. The Japanese's self-belief and mental fortitude have often helped her tide over periods when she hasn't been playing her best.
Even against Ons Jabeur in the third round, Osaka wasn't having her best serving day. She got only 43% of her first serves in and also committed five double faults. But Osaka did not let that bother her, and compensated for it with some accurate hitting off the ground.
The World No. 3 converted four of her seven break-point opportunities and dropped her own serve just once to run away with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Garbine Muguruza, on her part, got 63% of her first serves in and never lost her serve against Diyas. But while her overall performance was encouraging, she definitely has to get more first serves in against an efficient returner like Osaka.
Muguruza also won six of seven points at the net, and should look to attack the forecourt frequently to keep Osaka pinned to the baseline.
That said, keeping your foot on the pedal against a player of Osaka's caliber is always a tough ask. The Japanese has been a model of consistency over the past couple of years, and she thrives on the big stage. Muguruza, on the other hand, is known to go through bouts of erratic play in early-round matches.
If the Spaniard's nerves resurface, the match will automatically tilt towards Osaka.
Prediction: Naomi Osaka to win in three sets.