Naomi Osaka takes to the court on Friday to face one of her idols - Venus Williams.
WTA Staff

LONDON, Great Britain - Naomi Osaka could barely contain her delight after beating Barbora Strycova. That 6-1, 0-6, 6-4 win meant she maintained her record of reaching the third round in every Slam at the first attempt - but it also set up Friday's clash with Venus Williams, who had some very kind words to say about the Japanese player.

"I have seen her play before - I think we play a really similar game," said the five-time Wimbledon champion.

As reported by WTA Insider, the 19-year-old was thrilled that the American paid her that compliment.

"I'm kind of honored, because I don't think I would have started playing if Venus and Serena weren't, like, there for me growing up," she told reporters. "It's kind of weird to hear that she, like, maybe she even talked about me."

Venus Williams waves after beating Elise Mertens (Getty)
Venus Williams (Getty)

Osaka admired both Williams sisters as a child - but admits to a sneaking solidarity with Serena, a fellow younger sibling.

"I remember like when me and my sister used to train, like, at public courts and stuff, random people would be, like, 'Are you the next Venus and Serena?'" she recalled. "I feel like they had a great role in us growing up. I always wanted to be Serena."

She doesn't think there could possibly be anyone to replace the Williams sisters now ("I feel like they're, like, legends, you know") but she is more than excited to have the chance to play Venus at Wimbledon.

"I feel like I have been preparing for this, like, my whole life," she said. "But I was supposed to play her in Auckland [when Williams withdrew through injury] so unfortunately that didn't happen. But I was kind of, like, prepared then. So I feel like maybe that was leading up to this - playing her on a surface which is one of her best at a tournament which is one of her best.

"I'm really humbled to be able to come here from watching her on the TV. I'll just try my best - and hopefully not get too nervous."

Venus has her own milestone in sight - this tournament she could potentially play her 100th game in SW19.

"Wow, I never look at the stats," she responded when informed her century was approaching. "So, wow. I'd love to reach 100. That would be awesome."

And as one might expect from a woman playing her 20th Wimbledon, she has a plan in place to deal with an opponent with a game similar to her.

"I hope that my experience will help me to play that game that we play better," she said.

She was asked how she intended to beat Osaka, and the question got a wry response.

"Win more points."

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