Having split their two previous meetings, there are few secrets remaining between Naomi Osaka and Sofia Kenin. Both players combine their crushing groundstrokes with a championship-caliber desire to win and headline Thursday's night session at the Brisbane International.
What this match may lack in creativity will be made up for in pace and shot-making. Each can rip clean winners from all over the court, and neither has a true weaknesses from the baseline. Osaka rallied from an early third-set break deficit to topple Maria Sakkari in her season opener, while Kenin handled Anastasija Sevastova to begin her new decade of tennis.
Osaka should have a fresh perspective on the tennis court following her quasi “near death” experience while paddle boarding in the Caribbean. One can only hope Osaka was wearing a life-vest, but a strong ocean current can sweep up even the most experienced seafarers. Stand-up paddle boarding is not as easy as it looks.
Though Kenin sits at No. 14 in the WTA rankings, according to UTR, she rates as the sixth best player in the world. By the same metrics, Osaka currently matches her WTA standing of No. 3. The oddsmakers would agree, as Osaka is just slightly favored in this second-round toss-up.
In the end, look for Osaka’s one big advantage, her serve, to push her across the finish line. She hasn't lost since the US Open—building a 12-match win streak—and will be motivated to gain valuable court time against a quality field, as she approaches her Australian Open title defense.
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