WTA Tokyo first round preview: Angelique Kerber vs Naomi Osaka

The two ladies face off once again after Osaka stunned Kerber in the opening round of the US Open.

WTA Tokyo first round preview: Angelique Kerber vs Naomi Osaka
Kerber and Osaka shake hands after their US Open meeting (Elsa/Getty Images)

When the draw came out, everyone's eyes wandered to two names that would meet in the first round, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka. At the US Open when the draw was finished, this was a match that had everybody buzzing because of the potential upset on the cards.

This match did not disappoint under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof. Osaka absolutely blasted a hapless Kerber off the court, using the closed roof to her advantage just to power down on the German. Their rematch will come in Osaka's home country of Japan, but the Japanese is looking for a better showing after getting ousted by Kurumi Nara in the opening round of the Japan Women's Open

Are we going to see a similar script to what we saw at the US Open or will Kerber be able to find that confidence and craftiness that took her to the top?

Osaka's Consistent Summer

The Japanese took the momentum from her win over Kerber and translated to another third round result at the US Open. She overcame Denisa Allertova in three sets before getting ousted by eventual quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi

In Toronto, Osaka had to go through qualifying and won both her matches to get into the main draw. She defeated Heather Watson then Anastasija Sevastova before retiring against former world number Karolina Pliskova after dropping the second set tiebreak.

Osaka went three rounds deep at Wimbledon as well. She breezed past Sara Sarribes Tormo in the opener before battling against Barbora Strycova in three. Venus Williams eventually ended her run. 

Osaka reacts to her win over Kerber at the US Open (Elsa/Getty Images)
Osaka reacts to her win over Kerber at the US Open (Elsa/Getty Images)

Kerber's Wild Ride

For Kerber, since she took over world number one, it has been mostly a downward spiral for the German. Her best result over the summer came at Wimbledon when she made the fourth round. She was able to take the opening set against Garbiñe Muguruza but fell in three to the eventual champion.

Since taking to the Americas, it has not been the best of times for Kerber. She was overwhelmed by Sloane Stephens in her second match in Toronto and was involved in a highly controversial loss to Ekaterina Makarova. 

Kerber hitting a forehand at the US Open (Elsa/Getty Images)
Kerber hitting a forehand at the US Open (Elsa/Getty Images)

Analysis

At the moment, Kerber has no confidence in herself but has to be relieved that now she's free from the burden of defending her US Open title and trying to recapture the world number one ranking. Despite Osaka's loss to her countrywoman, she still has to be feeling the effects of that massive upset she pulled out at the US Open.

With Osaka, we know what we're going to get in terms of her power. However with Kerber, are we going to see what we saw in 2016 or what we have been seeing this year? Kerber last year added a little pop to her already consistent, lefty groundstrokes and played the angles beautifully.

This year, she's resorting back to old habits which have seen her play fewer angles and go through familiar patterns which allow her opponents to pick up where she's going. Also the lack of confidence with Kerber means we're seeing more short balls which allow her opponent to attack. 

If Osaka can handle the home crowd pressure and stick to her game, she should be able to win this one. If Kerber can find another gear or the confidence though, she can take this match.

Prediction: Osaka in three