APRIL 21 - MAY 4, 2025

Osaka takes flight on the red stuff

Naomi Osaka opened with a win over Anastasia Potapova on the Caja Mágica’s Manolo Santana centre court. The ex-world number one won 6-3, 6-1 in a 1-hour match. It was the first time the two had met and the Japanese took the spoils in her first clay match of 2022.

It was not an easy encounter for Osaka. Her opponent had won her first match in the main draw at the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open after a streak of 9 straight victories. The Russian progressed on the Madrid clay after a convincing win over Kristina Mladenovic.

It was a tight match early on, with Potapova claiming the first break of serve to take a 3-2 lead over Osaka in the first set. It did not last long though, as the Japanese returned the favour to level the match (3-3) with a game to love. This would be the turning point in the first set. After a solid service game of her own, she broke Potapova once again to make it 5-3, eventually taking the first set 6-3 in 31 minutes.

The second started as the first ended. Osaka broke the Russian’s serve again to go 0-2 up. Despite Potapova’s efforts to defend, she struggled to follow the tempo dictated by the only Asian woman to top the WTA ranking. Osaka closed out the second set by approaching the net to seal the match (1-6).

In the days leading up to her Mutua Madrid Open bow, Naomi Osaka confirmed that she had ‘stolen’ some aspects of Rafa Nadal’s game. Despite her unfamiliarity with the clay, the Japanese player looked very comfortable throughout the match. She served with aplomb (6 aces) and dominated the baseline, moving her opponent from one side to the other with ease to earn herself winners, generally on her forehand, but also with an intimidating backhand.

The four-time Grand Slam winner arrived in Madrid in a very different situation to last year. Hampered by various off-court problems, this year she has come to the Mutua Madrid Open on an invite from the tournament, while last year she did so as the second seed. However, Osaka brought an end to speculation about her form by reaching the final of the WTA 1000 in Miami, where she lost to world number one, Iga Swiatek.

Naomi Osaka’s stats on clay had not been promising. The Japanese player has only reached quarter-finals on the surface on three occasions, the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open being one of them. With her win today, the current No. 36 in the world ranking will now face the victor from the clash between Sara Sorribes and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the next round.