Miami: Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka defeated 23-times grand slam champion Serena Williams 6-3 6-2 in the Miami Open first round on Wednesday, the latest big win for the emerging 20-year-old Japanese player.
The pair were on serve in the first set of their first career meeting until Osaka forced break point chances at 3-3 and Williams was unable to deal with a blistering backhand at her feet. The world number 22 broke Williams again after a back-and-forth deuce battle to take the first set.
Osaka`s powerful serving and relentless return game were even stronger in the second and she broke Williams to go 3-1 up and was never threatened again. The match ended on an ugly unforced error by Williams, who hit a wide open forehand long to send Osaka into the second round, where she will face world number four Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
"I was extremely nervous coming on to the court. I don`t know if anybody knows this but Serena is my favourite player," Osaka said in an on-court interview. "So just playing against her is kind of like a dream for me. I`m very grateful I was able to play her and it is even better that I was able to win."
The 36-year-old Williams, playing her fourth match since the birth of her first child in September, is still working her way into form and although demonstrating her trademark power, she struggled to move smoothly around the court.
Osaka looked fresh despite having played seven matches in Indian Wells to capture her first career title on Sunday. Some felt it was unfair that the Miami Open allowed Williams, an eight-times champion at the tournament, to play Osaka in the first round.
"Serena should have a special seeding, but also WTA should use the most current ranking," tennis commentator and former world number one Lindsay Davenport said on the Tennis Channel.
"The men do it. It`s too big a tournament to have something like this happen."
Osaka`s win over Williams was her latest victory over some of the biggest names in the sport. She defeated former grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, fifth seed Karolina Pliskova and world number one Simona Halep in Indian Wells.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands`s comeback ended in a 6-2 7-5 loss to Alize Cornet in first round but the American wildcard walked off court to applause which she was unable to do the last time she played.
Frenchwoman Cornet needed one hour and 38 minutes to reach the second round before congratulating her opponent as the fans at Crandon Park cheered. It was a far different scene the last time Mattek-Sands was in action when she was carried off court on a stretcher screaming in pain after suffering an horrific knee injury during last year`s Wimbledon.
Mattek-Sands was playing Romania’s Sorana Cirstea when she appeared to slip as she approached the net early in the third set before collapsing awkwardly to the grass. After a moment’s silence, she suddenly screamed out in pain, then repeatedly shouted “help me” as she clutched her right leg.
Medical personnel arrived and Mattek-Sands was treated on court for more than 20 minutes, during which time she was given oxygen and an injection. "I`m the most happy with the win, but secondly, is to see Bethanie back on court," Cornet said. "She`s a great player and I was very sad last year for what happened to her at Wimbledon. "She`s already back and she`s playing damn good. I`m very happy to be through."