No.2 seed Naomi Osaka kept a stunning winning streak alive as she overcame a tough test from Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-6(3), 6-4 in the second round of the Miami Open on Friday.
"This is my first match since Australia, so I just really wanted to play well," reigning Australian Open champion Osaka said, in her on-court post-match interview. "I kind of feel like I’m at home here, because I grew up [near here] for most of my life."
Osaka has won the last 22 matches she has taken the court for, with her last defeat coming in February 2020, where she suffered a clay-court loss at the Billie Jean King Cup to Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Against World No.77 Tomljanovic, Osaka fired 36 winners, with aces accounting for a whopping 13 of those. Despite being broken twice, Osaka still won 81 percent of her first-service points in the 98-minute affair.
"I think for me, today I served really well when I needed to," Osaka said. "Unfortunately I got broken a couple of times, but I think when it really, really mattered, I was able to serve well, so I’m happy with that."
Tomljanovic matched Osaka in power and pushed the World No.2 in each set, but the Australian was ultimately undone by her 24 unforced errors outpacing 16 winners.
Osaka was down a break twice in the opening set and was in true peril at 5-4, where big-hitting Tomljanovic served for a one-set lead. However, Osaka’s strong returns came into full effect in that game, drawing errors from Tomljanovic to reach triple break point. One final impressive return set up a forehand winner to give Osaka the love break and parity at 5-5.
The pair advanced to the tiebreak -- Osaka’s first in her 11 matches this season -- where Osaka pulled ahead with sturdy forehands and sublime serves. An ace put Osaka ahead 6-3 and triple set point, and she only needed one as a reflex dropshot forced an error from Tomljanovic to end the set.
Osaka gritted her way out of a triple break point deficit to hold for 1-1 in the second set, then held on comfortably en route to 4-4. Tomljanovic’s hefty, deep shots kept her in the set up to that juncture, but an inopportune double fault on break point gave Osaka a chance to serve for the match at 5-4.
A double fault by Osaka gave Tomljanovic a chance to break right back, but Osaka made it through that occasion, then powered her way to victory from there to grab a spot in the third round.
Despite Osaka's hardcourt prowess (she has won four of the last six Grand Slam events contested on that surface), she has yet to surpass the third round in Miami. In her two previous appearances making it this far at this tournament, she fell to Timea Babos in 2016 and Hsieh Su-wei in 2019.
To make her first Miami round of 16, Osaka will have to defeat surging Serbian qualifier Nina Stojanovic, who saved two match points to upset No.26 seed Yulia Putintseva, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. Osaka thus dodges a match against Putintseva, who has won three of their four career meetings.
No.95 Nina Stojanovic’s comeback win over Yulia Putinseva is the 23rd match of 2021 where the winner rallied from match point down.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 26, 2021
Compare: There were 59 instances across the entire 2019 season: https://t.co/ipj31kzHVP https://t.co/HCupx06NZk
A qualifier caused another upset to occur on Friday as the first Top 10 seed fell. Liudmila Samsonova dominated all proceedings in her match against No.10 seed Kiki Bertens, stunning the former Top 5 player, 6-2, 6-1 in 55 minutes.
This was only Bertens' third match back since having Achilles tendon surgery, as she continues to ease back towards her top form. However, it was still a comprehensive display by Samsonova, who earned her first-ever Top 20 win behind thunderous play.
The World No.126 from Russia was stellar on serve, winning 24 of her 26 first-service points and never facing a break point during the clash.
A swift charge through the first set proved not to be a one-off as Samsonova crushed a winner down the line to break for 2-0 in the second set. The Russian continued to press, firing a passing shot winner to earn a second break for 5-1, then calmly served out the victory to earn a second-round meeting with No.23 seed Maria Sakkari.
Sakkari also had a quick second-round win as she dispatched Arantxa Rus, 6-2, 6-3, in an hour and a quarter.
Also on Friday afternoon, an all-American affair went the way of No.28 seed Amanda Anisimova, as she eased past 2018 Miami Open champion Sloane Stephens, 6-3, 6-3.
In just her second tournament of the season, 19-year-old Anisimova needed an hour and a half to move into the third round of the Miami Open for the first time in her career.
Anisimova fired 24 winners in the match, three times Stephens' total, and converted five of her nine break points between two of the ten Americans ranked inside the Top 50 of the WTA singles rankings.