Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka produced a performance to remember Tuesday afternoon on Arthur Ashe Stadium, pummeling number six seed and defending U.S. Open champion Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 6-1, with a masterclass of first-strike tennis in a match that lasted just 65 minutes.
Osaka Overwhelms Kerber in Entertaining Opening Set
In the pair’s first meeting, it was unsurprisingly Osaka who came out all guns blazing with her arsenal of weapons, backing up her steady backhand with her booming serve and dangerously ferocious forehand. After a series of seven consecutive service holds to start the match, it was the Japanese teenager who would make the first move, making Kerber pay for two costly double faults en route to clinching the first break of the match to take a 5-3 lead.
Having dominated on her serve for the better part of the opening set, with the exception being in the fifth game when she was able to fend off a break point with a brilliant backhand winner, Osaka found herself in a spot of bother while trying to serve for the set, gifting Kerber a pair of break points with a wild backhand dumped straight into the net.
But to her credit, the teenager held firm, bravely saving both opportunities—the first with a booming backhand winner, and the second with a screaming forehand passing shot down the line—before going on to take the opening set off an errant forehand return from Kerber, 6-3.
The Defending Champ is Out: Osaka Ousts Kerber, Earns First Top-10 Victory
A set away from her first-ever top 10 victory in 10 attempts, Osaka didn’t let the magnitude of the occasion daunt her. Instead, she would only continue to up the ante, breaking to start the second and never really looking back from there.
Playing with a maturity and composure beyond her years, Osaka was able to take advantage of an increasingly frustrated Kerber, who grew visibly unraveled as the match progressed, getting one step closer to completing the upset by securing the insurance break a few games later to go a set and 4-1 to the good.
With the finish line in sight, the 19-year-old powered seamlessly to a 5-1 lead, a final-set lead that she saw vanish in front of her very eyes when she played Madison Keys on this very court 12 months ago, but to her credit, she was able to put that ghost to rest with a third and final break to close out her biggest victory to date, and first against a top-10 player.
For Kerber, however, this will be yet another result to forget in what has been a very disappointing 2017 season so far, and one that will only continue to get worse as the German will fall out of the top 10 for the first time in two years after the U.S. Open.
Stats Corner: Osaka’s Brutal Display of Power Tennis Enough to Dismantle Struggling Kerber
Simply put, this match was one of those instances where offence completely decimated defence from start to finish. Astoundingly, Osaka was able to maintain a stellar 22-17 winner-to-unforced-error differential—astonishing considering her high-risk style of play—while Kerber ended with just nine winners and 23 unforced errors. Perhaps even more impressive was how the Japanese teenager managed to win nearly 80 percent (23/29) of the points on her first serve, one of the many keys to her not getting broken in eight service games during the brief 65-minute clash.
Next Up for Osaka: Allertova or Peterson
Since she was playing the defending champion, Osaka was lucky enough to play under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium while all the matches on the outside courts were either postponed or cancelled due to inclement weather. Because of that, the Japanese teenager will have to wait until tomorrow, weather permitting, to determine whether she will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson or the Czech Republic’s Denisa Allertova on Thursday for a place in the third round.