The current No.1 Naomi Osaka vs. former No.1 Victoria Azarenka second-round blockbuster opened Thursday’s Roland Garros action on Court Suzanne-Lenglen and the big-name clash turned out to be worthy of our anticipation. At one point it seemed that Azarenka would earn a comfortable straight-set victory over her fellow two-time Grand Slam champion, but Osaka proved that we should never write her off and clawed back to a 4-6 7-5 6-3 win in two hours and 50 minutes.
The 21-year-old Osaka quickly found herself 5-1 down in the first set and even though she reeled off three consecutive games to close the gap to 5-4, Azarenka won the first set in the following game after 43 minutes of play.
The second set was a thriller. Just as it seemed Azarenka would cruise to a straight-set triumph, Osaka started a fightback and recovered to win the second set in 74 minutes. The first signs of a tough battle showed up in the fourth game, when Azarenka finally held serve for 2-2 after eight and a half minutes. Azarenka’s spectacular point at the net earned her the first break of the set in the following game and soon afterwards the Belarusian was just one point away from going all the way up to 5-2.
That’s when the Japanese WTA star started getting herself together, held serve for 3-4 and after a ten-minute eighth game got the set back on serve by leveling to 4-4. Azarenka was still hanging in there, keeping her hopes of closing the match in straight sets alive, but Osaka converted her fourth set point and forced the decider by breaking her opponent again, 7-5.
After missing her big chances in the second set, Azarenka had no answer to the improved Osaka early in the third set, as the No.1 raced to a 5-1 lead. Osaka had trouble finishing the match, though, as Azarenka was somewhat close to getting the set back on serve, having a break point at 3-5 40-30. Still, the Belarusian didn’t convert that break point and Osaka finally capitalized on her third match point to reach the third round of the French Open.
Osaka is squeezing past her opponents in Paris, but a win is a win. Let’s note, against Azarenka her game was improved when compared to the opener against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
The 29-year-old Azarenka was aiming for her first victory over a reigning No.1 not named Serena Williams, while Osaka is trying to become the first woman in history to win her third major in a row after winning her first two.