03/19 15:02 CDT Serena to face rising star Osaka in 1st round at Miami Open
Serena to face rising star Osaka in 1st round at Miami Open
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) --- It has never happened before: an opening-round
match pitting a player who just won her first tennis title against a 23-time
Grand Slam champion.
Naomi Osaka, a rising star who won Indian Wells on Sunday, will face Serena
Williams in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday. It's a freakishly
difficult way for both players to start a tournament.
"The luck of the draw," tournament director James Blake said Monday. "It's
great in one sense --- we have an unbelievable blockbuster match for Wednesday.
But one of them is going to be gone unfortunately by Thursday."
The marquee matchup at the outset of the two-week tournament came about because
neither player is seeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best No. 22, while Williams
is ranked No. 491 after becoming a mother and returning to the tour at Indian
Wells following a layoff of more than a year.
Osaka, a 20-year-old slugger from Japan, earned the biggest victory her career
when she beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in the Indian Wells final. Along with
the title she won $1.3 million, nearly doubling her career earnings.
Serena lost in the third round at Indian Wells to her sister Venus. An
eight-time Key Biscayne champion, Serena enters the tournament as a wild card
and has never faced Osaka.
"We'll see a lot of heavy hitting," Blake said. "Both of them hit the ball so
big. There are a lot of story lines. How is Naomi going to react to winning her
first big title? There's the cross-country flight. Is she going to be nervous
playing Serena now that expectations are higher?"
Osaka lost just one set at Indian Wells and beat Maria Sharapova and top-ranked
Simona Halep en route to the title.
"But anyone who is counting Serena out," Blake said, "is doing so at their
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