I often call young, talented players “rising stars.” But in the case of 18-year old Naomi Osaka of Japan, she literally won the Rising Stars Invitational event at last year’s WTA Finals. However, after seeing her play against Donna Vekic in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open, I was shocked at how much she is improving in a short period of time. She simply hit Vekic off the court. I wondered if she could do the same against 18th seed Elina Svitolina. It was a closer match, 6-4 6-4. Still, Osaka…who interestingly was actually born in Osaka, Japan…was comfortably in control against the more experienced top 20 player. Now it gets really tough. Next up is Victoria Azarenka. Honestly, this is probably where the story of this Australian Open ends for Naomi. Vika has won her two matches by scores of 6-0 6-0 and 6-1 6-2…taking time to dab along the way. Nobody expects Osaka, who currently lives and trains in Florida, to win so she might as well go out and blast away. Who knows? Maybe the young rising star will pull off the upset. By the way, for those who don’t know, her father is Haitian and her mother, Tamaki, is Japanese.
I’m very pleased to see Ana Ivanovic move into the third round with back to back comfortable wins. Her 6-3 6-3 win over Anastasija Sevastova means Ivanovic will play the winner of the Madison Keys v Yaroslava Shvedova match (which I happen to be watching now while typing this post). Either of those players is a threat to beat Ana. But Ana is also capable of handling both of them as well. Regardless, the way she played last year coupled with her 0-2 start this year had me worried she could be out in the first round at Melbourne. Happily, that wasn’t the case.
20 ANA IVANOVIC d. Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3 6-3
[Q] NAOMI OSAKA d. 18 Elina Svitolina, 6-4 6-4