Birmingham Classic: Naomi Osaka Battles Past Maria Sakkari to Reach Round 2
Birmingham Classic 2019: Naomi Osaka fended off a stiff challenge from Greece's Maria Sakkari to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in the first round.
Naomi Osaka started her grasscourt season with a hard-fought win over Maria Sakkari in Birmingham. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Naomi Osaka was made to work extremely hard by Maria Sakkari of Greece for a victory in the first round of Birmingham Classic but the world No.1 came through in a little over two hours on Tuesday.
Osaka beat Sakkari 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to the second round of the tournament. Osaka had said on Monday that she doesn't feel at home on grass and it was quite evident as Sakkari pushed her.
Osaka was required to fight out for that victory against Sakkari but the Japanese was happy to have come through this grind.
"I knew she was going to be difficult. I have played her before and it was split 1-1. This was kind of a tie breaker and I am glad to have come through," Osaka said at the on-court interview after the match.
Osaka began the match a little slow and was required to fight off break points in her very first service game of the match. However, having fended those, Osaka went into her zombie mode and took the next five games to take the first set 6-1.
Such was Osaka's domination in that first set that Sakkari did not how what to do get points off the world No.1. She even called her coach on court who told her to hang on but nothing worked.
In the break then, Sakkari's coach told her to keep changing the pace of the rallies against Osaka and use a bit more of slice and drop shots to trouble the world No.1. Sakkari expressed her concern over finding it difficult to slice but the coach insisted on her trying the strategy.
Sakkari came into the second set with renewed vigour and a fresh strategy and soon that started to show results. Sakkari started using slice a lot more and Osaka struggled to work it out.
With Sakkari mixing up her shots, she broke Osaka early in the second set. However, she failed to hold her serve and Osaka broke back immediately. Sakkari though did not give up and broke Osaka once again and this time to eventually take the match to the decider.
In the decider, both Osaka and Sakkari held their serve in the first two service games each but it was Osaka's third service game that proved to be the changing point of the match.
With the scoreline reading 2-2 and Osaka serving, Sakkari brought up three break points and had the big chance to break Osaka. However, the Japanese saved all the three break points to take it to duece.
The story did not end there though. Sakkari brought up three more break points for herself but Osaka saved each one of them and then converted her second game point to take the lead in the third set 3-2.
"I was screaming on the inside during that game. I got a bit lucky with one point but relied on my serve overall," Osaka said.
That service game that Osaka saved altered the momentum completely. The world No.1 came back to break Sakkari immediately after that to take a 4-2 lead and then held her serve to make it 5-2.
After Sakkari held her serve to make it 5-3, Osaka was up serving for the match.
The world No.1 initially went down 0-30 but then came up four straight first serves and earned all those points to win the match.
In other results:
Jelena Ostapenko beat Iga Swiatek 6-0, 6-2
Krystyna Pliskova beat Viktoriya Tomova 6-3, 6-4
Julia Goerges beat Dayana Yastremska 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Petra Martic beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3, 7-5
Yulia Putintseva beat Harriet Dart 6-1, 6-4
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