WTA Indian Wells preview: Madison Keys vs Naomi Osaka

WTA Indian Wells preview: Madison Keys vs Naomi Osaka

The two big forehand hitters will meet in the third round in Indian Wells for the second time and will play for a possible encounter against the Danish, Caroline Wozniacki.

Ramona Toderaș

World number nine, Madison Keys is playing just her second match of the season against the up-and-coming Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka after having an arthroscopic surgery on her left wrist three days after the season-ending WTA Finals in October. The surgery was initially scheduled after the US Open but the American wanted to attend her first WTA Finals tournament consequently, her recovery lasted longer and she missed the first Grand Slam of the year and also the whole February month.

For her comeback, she is now accompanied by Lindsay Davenport for the second time after originally splitting at the end of 2015 season. In 2016 she has enjoyed the best year of her career, surging into the top 10 in the rankings for the first time and qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore. Nevertheless, she is now ready to take on the season and progress even further in the rankings. She has the game to win big titles and is considered to be the favorite to win her very Grand Slam title this year either at Wimbledon or US Open. But, until then she has to win her match against Osaka.

Naomi Osaka is considered to be one of the brightest teenagers on the WTA tour with and explosive forehand which has brought up the attention over the funny and geeky Japanese. She started her season in Auckland where she retired 0-3 down in the first set against Ana Konjuh.  At the Australian Open, she fell in the second round to the 2016 Australian Open semifinalist, Johanna Konta. Afterward, she won all her Fed Cup matches and fell in the second round in Dubai to Christina McHale.

Naomi Osaka in her first round match against Risa Ozaki | Photo: harry How / Getty Images
Naomi Osaka in her first round match against Risa Ozaki | Photo: Harry How / Getty Images

How they got here

Being seeded here, Madison Keys was granted a first-round bye and had to play Mariana Duque-Marino in the second round. The first set was a one way street for the American. She took it 6-1 and everything seemed to be in her full control. She went on to take the lead 5-1 in the second set while Duque-Marino served to stay in the match. That’s when all the craziness started. The Colombian saved three match points and began her roll. She immediately broke Keys and saved another two match points while serving to stay in the match. At 5-4 Davenport came down to try calm Keys who seemed to struggle timing her shots, little by little she was losing what was an easy match to take. Duque-Marino on the other side began to be more confident as the points went on. She saved two more match points and broke Keys. however, the Colombian lost the last two games, Keys being able to convert her 8th match point.

Osaka one the other hand won against fellow countrywomen Risa Ozaki in the first round, 6-4, 6-2, and managed to overcome Shuai Zhang the next round 6-4, 6-2.

Madison Keys against Mariana Duque-Marino in the second round in Indina Wells | Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty Images
Madison Keys against Mariana Duque-Marino in the second round in Indian Wells | Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

Their history

Osaka and Keys have previously met once, at the last year’s US Open. A match the Japanese does not want to be remembered for. Osaka was reduced to tears as American eighth seed Keys claimed a dramatic 7-5 4-6 7-6(3) comeback win to reach the fourth round. She led 5-1 in the third set and was just a few points away from the biggest victory of her career, however, Osaka crumbled as Keys won the next five games en route to a victory that stunned her 18-year-old opponent.
When asked about that US Open match Osaka told reporters that it taught her how to channel her nerves. Says it also helped her in Tokyo later. “I think I fought well. I served OK until 5-1. And then the whole world went crumbling down…"

Who wins?

Both players have a game based on pure power. Their foreheads are their biggest weapon so the winner of this match will be the one who will make fewer mistakes. An important part of their game is also their serve. However, not much is known about how Keys will react when pushed back and having to a face forehand siege.
The winner of this match will face either Katerina Siniakova or CarolWozniackiacki.

Prediction: Naomi Osaka in three.