When reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka beat reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in a competitive, three-set quarterfinal of the China Open in the fall of 2019, it seemed for all the world like it would be the first match in a long rivalry between the two young stars for the game's biggest trophies.

For many well-documented reasons, it hasn't quite turned out that way. But the second installment of Andreescu vs. Osaka, who made names for themselves as hard-court titans, will happen in another quarterfinal this week at, perhaps, a surprising venue, and on an equally-surprising surface: grass courts in the Netherlands, at the WTA 250 Libema Open.

Both Andreescu and Osaka are wild cards at the tournament, and each eased to second-round victories on Wednesday to set up the anticipated last-eight encounter. Andreescu was a 6-4, 6-4 winner over China's Yuan Yue, the sixth seed, while Osaka saw off home favorite Suzan Lamens, also a wild card and ranked No. 140, 6-2, 6-2.


Andreescu, who'll turn 24 in just four days' time, is playing just her second tournament in nine months after another injury, one that prematurely ended her 2023 season before the US Open. She reached the third round in her return to competition at Roland Garros (where she took a set from Jasmine Paolini, the eventual finalist). Meanwhile, Osaka has rebounded from an agonizing second-round defeat to Iga Swiatek in Paris, where she had match point on the eventual champion, with aplomb. Her first-round win over No. 4 seed Elise Mertens, who beat her in Miami, was her first grass-court win since 2019.

That same year, Osaka snapped what was a 17-match winning streak for Andreescu on a fateful day in October, beating her 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, in a tournament she'd eventually win.


FLASHBACK: Osaka beat Andreescu in three sets at the 2019 China Open.


"I don't want to play her any more. I'm good, one-and-done," Osaka joked back then, before adding: "We're both going to be on the tour for a bit. I think it's kind of bound to happen again ... I feel like it's interesting. We're both in a way kind of different from each other."

But, with the beneficiary of hindsight, Andreescu and Osaka haven't, in fact, been all that different.

Both have been candid about the mental health struggles they've sought to overcome as major-winning stars, taking sabbaticals from tennis at different times in an attempt to do so. Mounting injuries have also sidelined Andreescu for extended periods, including her latest back problem, while Osaka missed all of 2023 because of pregnancy. On Friday, they'll remind fans of what might've been, and the promise of what's still possible for two players who are now approaching their tennis with new perspectives and wisdom that comes with their experiences they've lived since one night in Beijing five years ago.

The winner will advance to a place neither is all that familiar with: Each woman has only reached one previous grass-court semifinal at tour level.