Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - Naomi Osaka plays Karolina Pliskova in the Quarterfinal of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open)
Safe to say, it’s been a pretty impressive year for WTA World No. 1 Naomi Osaka. After opening 2018 as the No. 68 ranked player, the 20-year old Osaka would put together a season for the ages and catapult herself into worldwide stardom.
With just a few days remaining before the 2019 BNP Paribas Open gets underway, let’s take a look back at Osaka’s top-5 moments throughout the past year:
5.) Defeats Childhood Idol Serena Williams in First Ever Meeting at 2018 Miami Open
Riding a 7-match win streak and playing the best tennis of her career, Osaka drew her childhood idol and favorite player of all time, Serena Williams, in the opening round of the 2018 Miami Open. It was the first time Osaka had ever competed against Serena, and she admitted how massively nervous she was in her post-match interview as she addressed the crowd. “I don’t know if you guys know this, but Serena’s my favorite player. I just kind of wanted to impress her.” While nervous to take on her idol, Osaka battled those feelings back and overwhelmed Serena on her way to a dominant 6-3, 6-2 straight set victory. One of the biggest wins of her career, it would set the stage for the rest of Osaka’s incredible season.
4.) Compiles Ten-Match Win Streak
From the start of the US Open all the way through to the finals at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Osaka put together an incredible stretch of tennis that included a ten-match win streak with victories over several of the most notable names in women’s tennis. On her way to winning her first major title at the US Open; she defeated Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Madison Keys, and Serena Williams among others.
3.) Wins First Ever WTA Title at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open
Just last year here in Tennis Paradise, Osaka had the biggest breakthrough of her professional career. Having never before made it past the third round of a Premier Mandatory event, she put together a dominant performance and dropped only one set in the middle round of the tournament. She defeated two top-five opponents in Karolína Pliskova and Simona Halep, before handling fellow up-and-comer Daria Kasatkina in the final. She became the youngest BNP Paribas Open champion in the last ten years and moved up to No. 22 in the word. The question now, is whether Osaka can defend her title at this year’s tournament.
Sunday, March 18, 2018 – BNP Paribas Open Women’s Singles Champion Naomi Osaka at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
2.) Captures First Grand Slam Title at the 2018 US Open
After a relatively quiet middle of 2018, Osaka solidified herself as one of the brightest young stars in tennis with the first Grand Slam singles title of her career at the US Open. Just like in Indian Wells, she overwhelmed each opponent she faced and lost a total of only seven games throughout the entire tournament. She faced idol Serena Williams for the second time of her career in the final, again downing her in straight sets 6-2, 6-4. While the match was marred in controversy between Williams and the umpire, Osaka showcased her sportsmanship and personality with a touching post-match speech to the fans on center court. With the victory, Osaka became the first Japanese singles Grand Slam champion in history.
1.) Opens 2019 by Winning the Australian Open and Becoming World No. 1
Seeded fourth in the first major tournament of 2019, Osaka traversed a lineup of top ranked players including Anastasija Sevastova, Elina Svitolina, Karolína Pliskova and Petra Kvitová to capture her second career Grand Slam victory. With the Australian Open title, Osaka became the first player to win two consecutive Grand Slam trophies since her childhood idol Serena Williams accomplished the same feat in 2015. She also became the first player to back up her maiden major title at the next Grand Slam tournament since Jennifer Capriati all the way back in 2001. As a result of her incredible tournament as well as overall performance throughout the past year, Osaka became the new WTA World No. 1.
Make sure to tune in to this year’s BNP Paribas Open to see if Naomi Osaka can defend her title in Indian Wells and solidify her spot as the No. 1 women’s player in the world!