Before each day's play at Indian Wells, we'll preview a pair of must-see matches. Our breakdowns will also include each players' UTR. What is UTR? Go to our Tennis Magazine feature and learn more.
Naomi Osaka: WTA No. 1, UTR No. 5 (13.3)
Danielle Collins: WTA No. 25, UTR No. 65 (12.73)
I spoke with Collins' team earlier this week. They believed that if she could get through her first opponent, Kirsten Flipkens, that she would stood a good chance against the world No. 1. Their concern was that Collins, who like Osaka had an outstanding Australian Open, lost her only tour match in between Melbourne and Indian Wells. That's also what happened to Osaka, who lost her opener in Dubai.
Both players started their BNP Paribas Opens with convincing straight-set wins, which leads us to this compelling third-rounder. Collins' biggest weapon is her mind. She believes not only that she can win, but that she should win. But she'll be facing someone who is at least as mentally strong as herself. On a night when cold and windy conditions are expected, the mind—and the body—will be tested.
The last time these two played, Osaka cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 victory. Tonight offers Collins a chance for revenge on a big stage—but in the end, look for Osaka to squeak this one out, in three close sets.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) - ATP No. 58, UTR No. 77 (15.05)
Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) - ATP No. 74, UTR No. 42 (15.2)
Fresh off his straight-sets win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 18-year old Canadian has the potential to go even deeper, given his draw. But Nishioka, a straight-set winner over Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round, surely sees this as an opportunity of his own.
This will be a fun match, as Nishioka loves the conditions here. He plays very heavy, with a loopy lefty forehand and a rock-solid backhand, and he'll look to find Auger-Aliassime's weaker backhand wing. Relatively speaking, of course, as Auger-Aliassime has all the shots. He's hitting his forehand bigger than anyone at the tournament. UTR has Nishioka ranked higher, but after Auger-Aliassime blasts him off the court, that may change.