WTA Toronto quarterfinal preview: Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka
Williams (l.) and Osaka (r.) embrace after the Japanese won the US Open title/Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

WTA Toronto quarterfinal preview: Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka

Meeting for the first time since their controversial US Open final, the American will look to get the better of the world number two for the first time.

john-lupo
John Lupo

A blockbuster quarterfinal matchup will take place on Center Court at the Rogers Cup in Toronto tonight as eighth seed Serena Williams faces second seed Naomi Osaka for a spot in the semifinals against Marie Bouzkova, the surprise of the tournament or defending champion Simona Halep.

Williams and Osaka's road to the quarterfinals

The 23-time major champion has gotten off to a sluggish start in all four sets she's played, falling behind a break to Elise Mertens and Ekaterina Alexandrova. She rebounded to defeat the Belgian 6-3 6-3 and the Russian 7-5 6-4 after a first round bye.

Williams plays a backhand during her second round win in Toronto/Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Williams plays a backhand during her second round win in Toronto/Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Osaka also had a bye in the first round and only needed to play one set in her second round match against Tatjana Maria with the German retiring after dropping the opening set 6-2. The Japanese got past 17-year old Iga Swiatek 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the third round to reach the last eight.

Previous head-to-head meetings

This is the third meeting between Williams and Osaka with the Japanese having won the previous two. The first matchup was in the first round of Miami in 2018, in which the Japanese prevailed 6-3, 6-2.

Osaka hits a forehand during her victory over Williams in Miami/Photo: Manuel Mazzanti/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Osaka hits a forehand during her victory over Williams in Miami/Photo: Manuel Mazzanti/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Their second and most recent meeting was last year's U.S. Open final, won by Osaka 6-2, 6-4 for her first major title, but more known for Williams receiving three code violations in the second set after having gone up a break.

Who will win?

Neither player is performing at the top of their game. Osaka is in a major slump since winning her second straight major at the Australian Open while Williams is not playing often enough to have consistent form.

Even when they were both playing at a much higher level, Osaka has generally dominated their two prior encounters, serving well and using her powerful groundstrokes to dictate play.

If Mertens and Alexandrova can break Williams' still incredible serve multiple times, there's no reason Osaka can't do the same. An added factor for both players is the sight of each other may give them more motivation.

In the end, Osaka, for all of her troubles, should win. While Williams is still a threat any time she steps on the court, this is her first quarterfinal outside of a major since 2016 and she has had trouble closing out tournaments.

Prediction: Osaka in straight sets

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