Naomi Osaka begins her Australian Open title defence on Monday when she takes on the rising Marie Bouzkova in the opening round.
Naomi Osaka ?? vs Marie Bouzkova ?? Match Info
Date: Monday January 20
Tournament: Australian Open R1
Court: Rod Laver Arena
Time: 11.00am local time (12.00am GMT)
Naomi Osaka vs Marie Bouzkova Head-to-Head
First career meeting
Naomi Osaka vs Marie Bouzkova Match Preview
Returning to the scene of her second Grand Slam triumph, Osaka has a potentially tricky opening round match on her hands against the talented Bouzkova.
Osaka produced some jaw-dropping tennis to reign supreme at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, beating the likes of Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova to capture her second Grand Slam title and become the first player since Jennifer Capriati to win heir first two major titles in consecutive fashion. Osaka showcased her fighting qualities in the final against Kvitova, bouncing back from the disappointment of failing to close out the match in straight sets by returning to deliver a masterclass in the decider.
The Japanese-Haitian player became the only Asian (man or woman) to reach the No. 1 ranking courtesy of her Australian Open triumph, but Osaka would go on to struggle for much of the season, especially on natural surfaces as she lost in the third round of Roland Garros and first round of Wimbledon. Osaka would also fall to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round of the U.S. Open after an emotional win over 15-year-old Coco Gauff (those two could meet again in R3 of the Australian Open), but the 22-year-old would end the season strongly, securing back-to-back titles in Osaka and Beijing to qualify for the WTA Finals, where she ultimately was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury after beating Kvitova in her first match.
Osaka recovered during the off-season and started the season in nice fashion at the Brisbane International, defeating Maria Sakkari, Sofia Kenin and Kiki Bertens before going down to Pliskova in a high-quality semi-final. That brought an end to Osaka’s 10-match winning streak from the end of 2019, but it was very solid preparation for the Australian Open.
Bouzkova, on the other hand, doesn’t have a main draw win for 2020 coming into the biggest match of her career. The 21-year-old did win three matches to qualify for the Brisbane International, but she lost in straight sets to eventual finalist Madison Keys in the opening round of the main draw, while she was upstaged in three sets in the first round of Hobart last week to the returning CiCi Bellis. Bouzkova will be making her Australian Open main draw debut after losing in qualifying the last two seasons.
After qualifying for her first Grand Slam main draw at the 2018 U.S. Open, Bouzkova put together an impressive rise into the top 100 in 2019, with her highlight coming at the Premier-5 Rogers Cup in Canada as she qualified and advanced all the way to the semi-finals, scoring top 10 wins over Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep before going down to Serena Williams. Bouzkova was also a runner-up at the WTA 125K Series tournament in Guadalajara and made the quarter-finals in Guangzhou, where she earned her third top 10 scalp over Elina Svitolina, finishing the season at No. 57 in the world.
Naomi Osaka vs Marie Bouzkova Prediction
Bouzkova knows she has the game to beat the very best in the world, but Osaka is a very different player to the likes of Halep, Svitolina and Stephens – the top tenners she conquered in 2019. Osaka, when she’s playing well, takes the game out of her opponent’s hands, and if that’s the case on Monday, Bouzkova might struggle to work her way into the match. Defending a title is never easy, nor are first matches of the tournament, so if Bouzkova starts well she might be able to cause a bit of trouble, but I expect Osaka to problem-solve if it comes down to that and come away with the victory.