It’s been an up and down season for Naomi Osaka. While she’s made some cool business moves, her tennis game hasn’t been great this year. However, as the WTA tour moves to hard courts ahead of the US Open, Osaka looks to bounce back strong.
According to ESPN, the four-time Grand Slam champion won her first match since May, defeating China’s Zheng Qinwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose. Hard courts are undeniably Osaka’s best surface and she showed it in this match.
The two-time US Open champion started strong, winning 87 percent of her first serve points in the first set. Considering her long absence, fans weren’t sure what to expect, but it became very clear we were getting vintage Naomi hard court dominance. Though Osaka continued to serve well, Zheng picked up her game and was able to take the second set. Unfortunately for her, it was all Naomi in the third, with the two-time Australian Open champion rolling to the victory.
“I’m super happy I was able to win,” Osaka said in her post-match press conference. “I had never played my opponent before, so it’s always really tricky, these types of matches—but she’s actually really good, and I’m sure I might play her again later on.”
Naomi was not the only big winner of the night. Per Tennis.com, Coco Gauff started her US Open prep with a spectacular 6-0, 6-1 win over Anhelina Kalinina. She only needed 55 minutes to get the job done. I guess those new sneakers really do make you a superhero.
These two are now headed for a second round showdown on Thursday. During Coco’s post-match on-court interview, there were loud “ooohs” from the crowd when everyone heard they were playing each other next. Naomi leads the head-to-head 2-1.
“I mean, I’ve played her a lot of times,” the French Open finalist said. “She’s obviously going to be a tough opponent. It’s not going to be an easy match. Our draw is probably the hardest of the tournament, for both of us. She’s such a champion on and off the court—those are the types of people you want to play, and I look forward to playing those matches.”
I have no idea who to root for, but honestly, the outcome almost doesn’t matter, as seeing these two amazing Black women showing out in a predominantly white space is so inspiring and exciting.
“What’s always impressed me about Coco is her mentality,” Osaka said. “She’s been on the tour for a while, and I think people don’t know that because of how young she is, but she’s improving every year, so there’s a lot that she’s learning and it’s only a matter of time before she wins a Slam.”
The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose is currently airing on Tennis Channel. Thursday’s schedule hasn’t been announced yet, but I imagine Naomi and Coco will play in the night session.