WTA (Women's Tennis Association)

Naomi Osaka trying not to ‘psych herself out’ as she keeps playing – and beating – the stars ‘you see on TV’ at Indian Wells

Rising star of women’s tennis is likely to face No 3 seed Gabine Muguruza next but she is focused on her own game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 10:04pm

Naomi Osaka’s first-round upset of Maria Sharapova in the BNP Paribas Open was one of the most memorable moments of this young tennis season. But in preparing for her second-round match against No 31 seed Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday, Osaka tried to forget her victory over Sharapova had ever happened.

“Going into the next match, I really want to win but at the same time I don’t want to go into the match too nervous and thinking about too much the match that I played before,” she said. “So I just try to think that I didn’t play my last match and just focus on the match that I played today.”

Her strategy worked. Winning 83 per cent of points on her first serve and piling up four service breaks, she earned a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Radwanska at Stadium 6 in front of a big crowd that loved her aggressive game and her charming personality. “I’m really grateful that people were cheering for me again,” said Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, grew up on Long Island, and trains in Florida. “Playing against people that you see on TV and stuff, it’s always really fun.”

Her next opponent will be No 3 Garbine Muguruza or American qualifier Sachia Vickery. Osaka is familiar with Muguruza’s pace from having practiced with her twice, but that is not a primary concern. “I sort of just want to focus on myself and what I have to do, because I feel like everyone from now – well, for me, even from the first round – is a quality player,” Osaka said. “I don’t want to psych myself out too much.”

In other matches, No 9 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the final set to outlast Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhastan, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-4 in three hours and 17 minutes, the longest Women’s Tennis Association match this year.

Kvitova overcame 18 double faults and a case of sunburn to extend her winning streak to 14.

“I sat on the bench after the second set and I was talking to my coach and I said, ‘I can’t,’” she told the WTA Insider Twitter account. “And he said, ‘You can!’ And I said, ‘I can’t!’” But she did.

Men’s No 17 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia withdrew because of an elbow injury. He was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Matteo Berrettini of Italy.

No 1 women’s seed Simona Halep of Romania, who has been hampered by a foot problem that kept her out of the Qatar Open last month, advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic. “It was important to win this match,” Halep said. “I come back from an injury, tough injury, and I didn’t have pain. I feel good.”