Reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has a tough assignment on her hands against the rising Sofia Kenin if she is to make the Brisbane International quarter-finals on Thursday.
Naomi Osaka (??) vs Sofia Kenin (??) Match Info
Date: Thursday January 9
Tournament: WTA Brisbane International, Round 2
Time: 7.00pm local time (9.00am GMT)
Naomi Osaka vs Sofia Kenin Head-to-Head
Level at 1-1
2018 | French Open R1 | Osaka 6-2 7-5
2019 | Cincinnati QF | Kenin 6-4 1-6 2-0 RET
Naomi Osaka vs Sofia Kenin Match Preview
Osaka, a semi-finalist in Brisbane last season, got her title quest off to a solid start on Tuesday, overcoming Maria Sakkari in three tough sets to advance into the second round.
The two-time Grand Slam champion made a confident start to the contest as she raced through the opening set, but Sakkari fought back strongly and squeezed out a second set tiebreak to force a decider. However, Osaka regrouped and was able to take her chances in the third, registering a 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3 victory, firing a personal-best 16 aces in two hours and seven minutes.
“I think I got off to a better start and was able to apply the things I wanted to,” Osaka told reporters. “In the second set, she knew what to expect, so she wasn’t fazed by how hard I was hitting. She got more used to it and more comfortable, so it was a bit harder to win the points as easily as I did in the first set.
“In the third set, I think I just wasn’t as tired because she was the one that was moving more than me.”
Osaka was playing her first match since being forced to withdraw from the WTA Finals Shenzhen with a right shoulder injury – but her amount of aces against Sakkari indicates she’s fully recovered from the problem.
Now coached by Wim Fissette – the former mentor of Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka among others – Osaka is hoping for a more consistent season in 2020, especially on the natural surfaces of clay and grass, where she struggled in 2019. But first things first: defending her Australian Open title and getting some match-play in Brisbane, where she will be aiming to go at least one step further than her semi-final finish of last season.
Sofia Kenin is her next opponent. The 21-year-old put together a remarkable 2019 season, vaulting from No. 49 to a career-high ranking of No. 12, winning three WTA titles in Hobart, Mallorca and Guangzhou, while she was also a runner-up in Acapulco.
Kenin was the tour-leader in hardcourt wins with 38, also reaching back-to-back semi-finals at Toronto and Cincinnati, beating Ashleigh Barty and Osaka in both tournaments while they were ranked No. 1, becoming the first player since 2001 to beginning reigning top-ranked players in consecutive weeks. Along with advancing to the second week of a slam for the first time when she made the fourth round of Roland Garros, Kenin qualified for the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and even participated at the WTA Finals Shenzhen as an alternate, going down to Elina Svitolina.
The American got her Brisbane International campaign off to a great start on Tuesday, taking out the always-tough Anastasija Sevastova 7-6(1) 6-4 to set up a second round clash with Osaka.
Naomi Osaka vs Sofia Kenin Prediction
This is shaping as an extremely tough match-up for Osaka – she’ll have to be playing close to her best to come out on top in my opinion. Kenin is a fantastic retriever, loves the grind and will get a lot of balls back – not too dissimilar to Sakkari, whom Osaka eventually figured out in three sets. In saying that, Kenin has a bit more firepower than the Greek and is generally a better player overall. It’s too early in the season to know what Osaka’s level is really at right now, but we always know what we’re going to get from Kenin. The American may be primed for her first top 10 scalp of 2020.