Monday, March 11, 2019 - Naomi Osaka plays Danielle Collins in the 3rd round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
On Tuesday evening in Tennis Paradise, fans in Stadium 2 will be treated to one of the most intriguing matchups throughout the tournament so far. Fresh off of her third-round destruction of Danielle Collins, 2018 BNP Paribas Open champion and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka returns to action to take on Swiss Belinda Bencic.
For Osaka, her domination through two swift matches in Indian Wells has reaffirmed her ranking as the WTA’s World No. 1. She dispatched Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets in her opening match, followed by a quick triumph over No. 25 Collins. In each contest, she outclassed her opposition while barely breaking a sweat. While both victories have been impressive, she looks to be in for her biggest test of the tournament on Tuesday.
Opposite Osaka will be world No. 23 Bencic who is playing arguably the best tennis of any player on tour today. At February’s Dubai Tennis Championships, she tore through a crowded field of perennial WTA top-10’ers with consecutive victories over Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova. In other words, wins over World No. 8, No. 3, No. 6 and No. 2 in less than a week. To say Bencic has put the rest of the field on notice would be an understatement, as she’s proven she can handle anyone she comes up against. That being said, it still feels like the rising Swiss isn’t getting the attention she deserves.
While the pair of 22-year-olds are two of the youngest players left in the women’s draw, they’ve been on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of attention. While Osaka sits firmly in the desert spotlight, Bencic has flown under the radar. True, much of that disparity is due to their significant gap in recent accolades (Osaka recently captured two consecutive Grand Slam championships while Bencic just won her only title since 2015), but tennis fans would be remiss to discount Bencic’s chances on Tuesday.
The Swiss is surging at just the right time, as she gets set to face the world No. 1 under the bright lights in Tennis Paradise. Dating back to her run in Dubai, Bencic has recorded 10 straight victories on her road to the fourth round of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open. If she’s able to get by Osaka, she’ll solidify her standing as one of the game’s clear-cut best. Meanwhile, the defending champion will attempt to brush off her most recent challenge as another undeserving foe.
Bencic looks to continue her ascent on Tuesday evening. Osaka awaits.