The seemingly unbeatable Naomi Osaka will headline Wednesday’s Miami Open quarterfinal slate against the supremely athletic Maria Sakkari. Osaka has won 23 consecutive matches when she’s taken the court, but if you count her two withdrawals in New York and Melbourne as losses, she is still a sizzling 9-0 since the start of the Australian Open. She is the absolute gold-standard on a hard court.
But Sakkari, who saved six match points on Monday against the red-hot Jessica Pegula, has played some fantastic tennis this season. Though the Greek has yet to reach a final in 2021, she’s beaten the likes of Garbiñe Muguruza, Sofia Kenin, Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys. Few players can match her shot-for-shot intensity and power, but Osaka is certainly one of them.
The world’s highest-paid female athlete owns a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over Sakkari, but has needed three sets to finish the job on each occasion. Sakkari’s unique ability to rip the ball off the court with her heavy kick-serve and forehand causes problems for everyone, including Osaka.
But when it comes to power and placement, there is no one on the planet that can match Osaka.
It’s imperative that Sakkari does all she can to keep the ball away from the middle of the court.
Not only is Osaka the best in the world from the mid-court, she is the best at holding her forehand position, waiting for her opponent to make a move, and then swiping the ball to the open court. It seems she’s taken a page from Roger Federer’s book in that regard.
Sakkari will need to play tremendous tennis to pull off the upset, but she’ll also need to be creative. This change-of-pace high-ball forced Osaka into making a difficult decision, and Sakkari was there to clean up the passing shot.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Osaka is listed as a -400 favorite, and projected to win by 4.5 total games. From a betting perspective, it’s probably best to avoid this match entirely, as Osaka has covered a 4.5 game spread in each victory despite winning in three sets. It’s rare for a player to lose a set and still cover their game spread, but Osaka has not lost more than three games in any set she has won against the Greek.
Sakkari is capable of winning, and more than capable of keeping it close, but you just can’t bet against Osaka at the moment.
The Pick: Naomi Osaka