In her first match since being heckled by a spectator in Indian Wells, Japan’s Naomi Osaka powered past Astra Sharma in two sets. Osaka needed just one hour and 20 minutes to beat the Australian, who never looked like threatening for the win. The 24-year-old recieved a warm welcome from the Miami crowd and was greeted with chants of ‘we love you’ as she left the court.
Naomi Osaka powered past world No. 96 Astra Sharma in the first round of the Miami Open to rack up her 50th WTA 1000 win.
The 24-year-old looked comfortable throughout, beating Australia’s Sharma 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 20 minutes.
Osaka had too much for Sharma from the first rally and won without conceding a break of serve. As confidence grew, she was pressing forwards and by the end of the match was attacking Sharma’s service well inside the baseline.
The first set whipped by as Osaka ticked off routine service games. She won 100 per cent of her first serve points in the first set and gave up just three on her second.
Despite the dominance, she could not find a way past a determined Sharma, who had saved six out of seven break points in the first set and nine overall.
Osaka broke early in the second set with a fine smash that seemed just to ease some of the tension starting to creep into her game.
What followed was the first signs of frustration from Sharma as she palmed two simple returns into the base of the net, looking overwhelmed as Osaka’ backed up her break in a flash.
Sharma had been finding some joy against the second serve as Osaka tried to put too much behind it when placement would have sufficed against limited opposition.
Sharma did have her moments. A lunging forehand response to a viciously angled drive from Osaka the pic of her shots. But she always looked a step or two behind the pace, despite improving as the match ran on.
The 26-year-old saved three match points with the second set at 5-3 and continued to frustrate, despite Osaka producing her finest shot in the match in the penultimate game.
Sharma had placed her serve wide of Osaka, but with an interminable flick, the ball was back past her as she set herself after the serve.
This was Osaka’s first match since she was heckled in a 6-0 6-4 loss to Veronika Kudermetova. A spectator in the crowd yelled “Naomi, you suck,” after the four-time Grand Slam winner lost the first game.
She was clearly affected, fighting back tears in her post-match interview. The 24-year-old asked the umpire to be given the microphone to address the crowd, but her request was rejected.
Interviewed after this match, Osaka was greeted with a warm response as the crowd cheered, “we love you”. It was a touching moment and Osaka clearly felt it too.
Osaka will play Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the second round.