Other SportsTennisUncategorized


Will Iga Swiatek v Naomi Osaka develop into a long-term rivalry on the WTA Tour after their second career meeting in the Miami Open final? New world No.1 Swiatek won the match to clinch her third WTA 1000 title in a row and continue her dominant start to the season. However, four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka has outlined her ambitions to return to the top of the game.

If there’s one thing the WTA Tour has been missing over the last five years it’s a top-tier rivalry. Which is probably why, after just the second career meeting between Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka, there were hopeful thoughts and musings that this could be a rivalry that grows, develops, evolves, and becomes the marquee match-up in women’s tennis for years to come.

Wishful thinking perhaps at this stage, but the starting point is there.

“Rivalries are what make the sport go around,” said Osaka after seeing her resurgent run ended in impressive fashion by Swiatek in the Miami Open final.

“People want to see the match-up in different countries or different surfaces. I think that’s the most exciting thing about tennis is like you play in different altitudes, different conditions. So yeah. I don’t know if she really considers me a rival, but sure, that would be fun.”

There is much to suggest this isn’t a true rivalry yet; Swiatek is world No.1 and has been the dominant force in women’s tennis this year, Osaka is No.36 in the rankings and has struggled for form over the last 10 months. Their only previous meeting before the Miami Open final was in Canada in 2019, when Osaka won in straight sets.

But Osaka’s performance in Miami has much to answer for. She has not played this well at a tournament since she won the 2021 Australian Open. That was her fourth Grand Slam victory and even though it didn’t take her back to No.1 in the world rankings, she was arguably the best player in the world at that time. Ashleigh Barty was then clearly the deserving No.1 from the 2021 Miami Open until her retirement last month, while Osaka slipped out of the picture after withdrawing from the French Open due to mental health issues.

Now, though, Osaka appears to be rejuvenated. She was striking the ball sweetly in Miami, serving well, and saying the right things. Even after her loss to Swiatek she had a new-found positive outlook. “I think normally I would be crying in the locker room or something, but now I’m kind of like chill. I feel like I know what I want to do better, and I just want to go back and start training again to like hopefully win a tournament next time.

“Strangely enough, even though I didn’t win here, this is probably one of the most meaningful tournaments for me. What I’m going to take back is knowing even if I don’t play my best, as long as I fight as hard as I can, there’s still going to be opportunities to win the match. I think that’s a really positive sign.”

Osaka has recently revealed she has started seeing a therapist to talk about some of the issues she has shared over the last year. Just recently in Indian Wells she was reduced to tears by a heckler in the crowd. That she managed to come back so strongly in Miami is a credit to her and perhaps a sign of where she is at right now.

She was also happy to set herself lofty ambitions after losing to Swiatek.
“I think by like next year or by the end of this year I would love to be top 10. By next year I would love to be the No. 1. Oh, that’s a big statement. Close to – top five. Erase that. Top five. You know what? I’m going to set that goal. Top one, yeah, No.1.”

Swiatek might have something to say about that.

The 20-year-old is the hottest player in tennis right now with a 17-match winning run earning her three straight WTA 1000 titles. In Miami she looked unbeatable, not dropping a set and only losing more than three games in a set on two occasions. Worryingly for the rest of the field, Swiatek’s powers might continue to grow over the next few months as the season switches to her favourite surface: clay.

“It is really exciting because I always felt like even when I’m going to have the same results on clay it’s always more comfortable for me to play on clay,” she told the WTA.
“I’m just more comfortable there. Actually, I feel like I can hit even more variety than on hard courts…I’m just going to take as much energy as possible from the fact that I just want to play on clay and it’s just fun.”

As for a potential rivalry with Osaka, Swiatek was happy to talk it up after the Miami Open final.

“I’m pretty glad that we could play this match and I think it’s a start of a great rivalry.

“And honestly, when I was watching you winning the US Open in 2018, I wouldn’t even thought that I’m going to be playing against you on such an important match. You are really an inspiration and this sport is better with you so keep going and as you said, we’re 1-1 now so… plenty more matches to come.”

Part of what makes Osaka v Swiatek such an interesting rivalry is that they clearly like each other a lot.

Ahead of the Miami Open final a clip resurfaced of

They also had an amusing exchange during a press conference at the 2021 Australian Open when a smiling Osaka told Swiatek that she is “so ridiculous.” Further proof of the friendly relationship between the pair could be seen in Osaka’s runners-up speech in Miami as she waved at Swiatek with a cheerful “hiiiiii”.

A high-level rivalry would add another layer to the top of the women’s game. Osaka v Barty looked like it might have potential as they battled for the world No.1 spot in early 2021, but the last of their four meetings was in 2019. Swiatek v Barty has also been cut short, leaving the last great WTA rivalry as probably Serena Williams v Venus Williams.

That too was a friendly one, and however the on-court rivalry between Swiatek and Osaka develops, we’re here for it.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button