Roland Garros 2019: Naomi Osaka vs Victoria Azarenka, match preview and prediction
But nerves seemed to be getting the better of her in the early going of her first round match in Paris. She had to battle hard against the unseeded Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in three sets to move to the second round.
Osaka couldn't win a single game in the first set and had to save two match points in the second before clinching it in a tie-breaker. She eased up considerably after that, rolling past Schmiedlova in the third set at a canter.
Osaka's second-round opponent will be former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who defeated 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets. That was also an imperfect match as both the players made many errors throughout. But it was Azarenka who prevailed in the end, winning 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Osaka and Azarenka have played two times against each other with Osaka winning their last encounter, which came in the first round of the 2018 Italian Open. But it was Azarenka who won their first match, back in the year 2016 at the Australian Open.
Osaka has struggled to find form since the end of the Australian Open; she lost in the early stages of all the hardcourt tournaments she entered after Melbourne. She seemed to have rediscovered a bit of her rhythm in the clay swing, reaching the semifinals in Stuttgart and the quarterfinals in Madrid, but then injury struck, forcing her to withdraw from the Italian Open.
She has arrived in Paris hoping to make it three Slams in a row, but her task will be very difficult considering clay is not her favorite surface.
Azarenka on her part has had a decent run on clay this year as she reached the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and Rome. Her comeback from injury has not been going as smoothly as she'd have liked, but she still has the game to cause major upsets.
Osaka's offensive firepower will be pitted against Azarenka's superlative defensive skills, and the fans will likely get to see an absorbing contest between the two multiple Slam champions.
Match Prediction: Naomi Osaka - 75% chance of winning, Victoria Azarenka - 25% chance of winning.Modified 20 Dec 2019, 23:15 IST