Naomi Osaka delivered a composed and controlled performance to defeat Astra Sharma 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the Miami Open, advancing in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
It was Osaka's 50th career WTA 1000 win, and sets up a second-round clash against another former World No.1, No.13 seed Angelique Kerber. Osaka claimed her first career Top 10 win over Kerber at the 2017 US Open, ending the German's title defence in the first round, but has lost all four of their subsequent matches.
In Osaka's words: Two weeks ago, Osaka had departed Indian Wells in tears after being rattled by a heckler during her 6-0, 6-4 second-round loss to Veronika Kudermetova. After her win over Sharma, she said she was keen to put that behind her.
"I didn't want to let anything bother me, no matter what happened," Osaka said. "The last match I played was not the greatest memory for me. I wanted to prove that I could come back out here and compete, and no matter if I won or lost, to just know that I had the best attitude I could."
Keys to the match: Osaka was utterly dominant on serve, losing just two points behind her first delivery and six behind her second. And though her break point conversion rate was subpar as she took just two of her 11 opportunities, she did not let this frustrate her.
Having gained an early break in each set, Osaka was repeatedly stymied in her attempts to move up a double break. Sharma faced break points in every service game in the first set, but escaped 15-40 holes three times. In the second set, the Australian also escaped three match points while serving to stay in the match.
But Osaka responded to all of these missed chances by simply posting rapid-fire service holds to maintain her advantage. Sharma managed to come up with two of the best shots of the match in the second set, a pair of remarkable forehand gets, but in the main it was Osaka who had the edge in terms of power and angles in baseline rallies.
Linda Fruhvirtova continues to hit milestones
As Osaka was notching her 50th win at WTA 1000 level, 16-year-old wildcard Linda Fruhvirtova scored her first. The Czech junior World No.3, competing in her fourth WTA main draw, routed Danka Kovinic 6-0, 6-4 in just 1 hour and 14 minutes.
Kovinic was coming off a solid Indian Wells campaign, where she had upset Karolina Pliskova for her third career Top 10 win, but was out-manoeuvred by No.279-ranked Fruhvirtova throughout. The result was Fruhvirtova's first completed Top 100 victory, having previously defeated Alizé Cornet via retirement at last year's Charleston 250.
Elsewhere, though, experience triumphed over youth. Madison Brengle was too consistent for another 16-year-old wildcard, Alexandra Eala, defeating the Filipina 6-2, 6-1; Irina-Camelia Begu roared back after losing a tight first set to beat 20-year-old wildcard Hailey Baptiste 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-1 and set up a second-round clash with No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka; and Aliaksandra Sasnovich edged 20-year-old qualifier Wang Xinyu 7-6(6), 6-4.