World No. 1 Naomi Osaka endured a rollercoaster start to the Miami Open on Friday advancing to the third round with a 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-1 win over Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.
After facing eight-times Miami champion Serena Williams in her first match last year, Osaka might have expected an easier opener on Friday against the 141st-ranked Belgian qualifier.
Yet that was not the case as she needed more than two hours to dispose of her Belgian opponent, having dispatched the 23-times grand slam singles champion 6-3, 6-2 a year earlier.
“It was really hard for me, I think, emotionally in the second set because I just started thinking about winning, not exactly the things I could do in order to win,” Osaka said. “I had a bit of a dip. She was also playing really well.”
The first match on Stadium Court, the contest again looked like it might wrap up before the late arrivals had settled in, but it turned into a head scratcher for Osaka that ebbed and flowed between dominance and despair.
The Japanese player, who had been firing on all cylinders while Wickmayer sleepwalked through a one-sided opening set, suddenly began to sputter in the second as the Belgian woke from her slumber.
Letting her foot off the gas, the Australian and U.S. Open champion was left muttering to herself and flipping her racket as shots that had been finding their target minutes before were sprayed all over the temporary court allowing Wickmayer back into the match. Yet just as quickly as Osaka lost her way the 21-year-old got back on track in the third set, securing the early break on her way to a 3-0 lead and a topsy-turvy victory.
Although South Florida is home for Osaka, the Miami stop has not been kind to the Japanese player, who has never ventured past the third round. Osaka will next face 27th seed Hsieh Su-wei from Taiwan who was a 6-2, 7-5 winner over American Alison Riske.
Three-time champion Venus Williams overcame a wobbly start to beat No. 24 Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6(4), 6-1.
Defending men’s champion John Isner hit 20 aces, lost only 11 points on his serve and beat qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 7-6(2), 7-6(7).
No. 5-seeded Kei Nishikori was upset by Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. Lajovic improved to 3-14 against top-10 players.
No. 16 Gael Monfils, who has been hampered by an Achilles injury, withdrew before his opening match.