Less than three months after needing a feeding tube to combat an oral cancer diagnosis earlier this spring, Nicole Gibbs scored her biggest win in almost three years on Monday. The American posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over countrywoman Alison Riske, the world No. 34, in the opening round of the WTA Premier event in Osaka.
Gibbs has shown signs of her Top-100 form once again. She put Wimbledon champion Simona Halep on notice in the first round of the US Open, but ultimately fell, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. On Wednesday, Gibbs will face off against another former world No. 1 in Angelique Kerber, who unlike Halep, has endured a 2019 to forget.
Kerber is yet to win a title this season, and her tennis results have fashioned an unfavorable pattern in odd-numbered years. The German failed to reach the quarterfinals of a major in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019. To make matters worse, Gibbs is playing with the confidence and belief that helped her win two NCAA singles titles in 2012 and 2013.
Although Kerber is a sizable favorite according to the oddsmakers, this match has some serious upset potential. The three-time major champion has lost her past five matches, dating back to her second-round defeat to Lauren Davis in her Wimbledon title defense.