It would be a battle of two quality players in the first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg as fourth seed Carla Suarez Navarro goes up against the talented youngster in Naomi Osaka. A battle of two contrasting styles of tennis, it should be a good and high-quality opening round match played on the opening day of the tournament, with the winner earning a place in the second round.
After suffering from some injury problems throughout the last year, Suarez Navarro has fallen out of the top 20 just recently as she failed to earn any outstanding results to help keep her ranking up. Reaching the quarterfinals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix despite being unseeded amongst the tight-packed field, it was truly an impressive performance as the Spaniard defeated the higher-ranked Elena Vesnina along the way. Despite falling to eventual finalist Kristina Mladenovic in the quarterfinals, it seemed that Suarez Navarro has returned to playing her best. Further outstanding performances followed as the former top 10 player defeated the giant-killer and tricky player in Peng Shuai, coming from a set down to triumph eventually in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
She then followed it up with yet another three-set victory, this time over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the second round. Despite leading by a set in her third round match against the hard-hitting Coco Vandeweghe, Suarez Navarro ultimately fell in three sets to stop her run in the tournament. Another disappointment followed as the former top 10 player fell to Lauren Davis in the opening round of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, definitely not looking at her best. Coming into Strasbourg, Suarez Navarro hopes to earn more match play before the second Grand Slam of the year.
Naomi Osaka has been having a fair season thus far, but some injury problems have prevented her from playing her best tennis during this year’s clay court season. Coming through the qualifying rounds at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and saving a massive five match points along the way as the top seed, Osaka only had her luck to blame when she drew sixth seed Johanna Konta in the first round of the main draw. Despite putting up a tough fight, the Japanese fell in three sets.
After the match, Osaka revealed that she had ruptured an abdominal muscle in the tournament, which was further aggravated when she played on with the pain, causing her to miss both the tournaments in Prague and Madrid. Returning to competition in Rome where she was let into the main draw after the withdrawal of Caroline Wozniacki, Osaka had yet another tough draw as she was drawn to face clay-court specialist and Stuttgart champion Laura Siegemund in the opening round. Despite falling in straight sets, it was good enough to see the youngster back on the court.
On paper, it would be Suarez Navarro who triumphs in this clash considering her excellent clay-court record over the past years and being the higher-ranked player. However, Osaka has proved that she can challenge the best on clay especially bringing Simona Halep to a deciding set at the French Open last year.
Carla Suarez Navarro has to keep Osaka at bay throughout the match, disallowing her to control proceedings. Her unique one-handed backhand would do some of the work for her as the Spaniard would be able to go against the Japanese’s powerful groundstrokes with this powerful shot. Her forehand has to be solid and consistent enough, but some net play could win some free points for her as she is a former Top 10 player in doubles. She must serve smartly, utilizing the spin and the bounce on the court well, serving out wide to exploit the vulnerability of Osaka’s footwork.
The only way to triumph in this match for Osaka is to dictate play as much as possible, because of her lack of a Plan B in all her matches, which could cost her greatly at points of time. Osaka has to constantly aim her powerful groundstrokes at the lines, forcing Suarez Navarro to move all around the court. The Japanese also has to ensure that she has a high first serve percentage, with her first serve being able to win some free points for her. Osaka has to beware of the Spaniard’s slices and drop shots and must be able to defeat Suarez Navarro at the net.