Australian Open: Naomi Osaka survives a tough test against Luksika Kumkhum

Australian Open: Naomi Osaka survives a tough test against Luksika Kumkhum

Naomi Osaka survived a 2 hour 25 minute battle with Luksika Kumkhum in her first match back in Melbourne after a career-best 2015 performance.

becky-walker
Becky Walker

Having only met once before in 2015, where the Japanese player dominated in straight sets, Naomi Osaka and Luksika Kumkhum's match on Day Two of the Australian Open was set as fairly low interest for most people. On paper, this match-up didn't really stand out as being a must watch match. However, over the course of the 2-hour match, more people started tuning in to see a great fight between two determined, talented players, with powerful groundstrokes.

Even though the match was plagued with unforced errors, Kumkhum hit 50 to Osaka's 55, there were still some amazing winners over the three sets, including a backhand pass by Osaka to set up match point. Both players had a relatively low first serve percentage too, with Kumkhum hitting 59 percent and Osaka at just 53 percent. It turned out that the winner of this match was the one who converted the most break point opportunities. Osaka converted four of nine break points compared with Kumkhum's two of six .

Tiebreak Time

Naomi Osaka started the match tentatively as all of the points that Kumkhum won in her opening service game were due to errors from the Japanese player. Most of the service games early on were decided by errors from the returning player, so both players were able to hold serve fairly comfortably. The first break points came in the ninth game of the first set, where Kumkhum had to save three of them to stop Osaka from breaking to serve for the set.

The Japanese player failed to convert all three break points due to unforced errors on her part. Due to the strong serving in the first set from both players, the set was destined for a tiebreak. Kumkhum dominated the tiebreak, with Osaka losing the set on a volley which went wide. During the tiebreak, the rising star only held serve twice as both her forehand and backhand let her down.

Osaka levels the match

After the disappointment of losing the first set, Osaka took control of the second set by jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Once again it was due to errors that Kumkhum lost her serve. A couple of forced errors on her forehand side gave the Japanese player the first break of the second set in the second game. However, by showing the determination she showed in the first set, the Thai player broke back in the fifth game, by forcing Osaka into some errors on her forehand side.

Kumkhum then struggled to consolidate her break as Osaka kept the pressure on, but she managed to hold serve, in the end, to make it 3-3. The set then followed a similar pattern to the first with both players holding serve relatively comfortably, the only difference being that there wasn't any need for a tiebreak. In the tenth game, Osaka hit a few strong forehand winners to give herself a couple of set points, but she only needed the one as a Kumkhum forehand, unforced error gave her the set.

Lengthy third set; Osaka steals the win

Both players got off to a bad start on serve in this final set, with breaks of serve being traded early. Kumkhum broke first with a forehand winner down the line only to be pegged back by Osaka in the next game, who broke on a Kumkhum forehand which sailed long. There were a few quick service games after the breaks which got both players settled into the set. Coming towards the end of the final set, Osaka was the first to show a few nerves as she had to save three break points in the seventh game. However, in another game full of errors from both players, the Japanese player was able to force Kumkhum into some forehand errors to save the break points. The next test for the Thai player came in the tenth game, where she had to save two match points in order to stay in the match.

Osaka played a wonderful backhand crosscourt to set up the second match point, but it was saved by yet another unforced error from the Japanese number two. Serving to stay in the match for a second time at 5-6, Kumkhum had game point which would have extended the match, but another error off her racket enabled Osaka to stay in the game. This error would prove to be costly as the Japanese player then hit a great backhand passing shot to set up match point. This match was then decided by an unforced error, which was quite fitting of the match as a whole. A Kumkhum forehand into the net gave Osaka the win in nearly two and a half hours.

Next for Osaka

In round two, Osaka will face 9th seed Johanna Konta, in what could be an intriguing match, especially as the Brit has been in fine form in the past few months. There only previous meeting came at the US Open in 2015 where Konta prevailed in straight sets.

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