In the marquee showdown of the opening round of the Miami Masters, Serena Williams was blasted by 20-year-old Naomi Osaka 6-3, 6-2.
Osaka recently stormed to the Indian Wells title on Sunday, cruising past No. 1s Maria Sharapova, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep before routing Daria Kasatkina in the final. Serena has lost to sister Venus.
But on Wednesday, after a slow start it was all Osaka who made the 36-year-old Serena look like a 36-year-old. Serena was plagued by errors and had trouble moving from side-to-side. While Serena did smack her usual big serves and winners from the ground, the consistency was never there and Osaka enjoyed another huge win, this one over her childhood idol.
“I was extremely nervous coming on the court. I don’t know if anyone knows this but Serena is my favorite player,” Osaka said. “Just playing against her is kind of like a dream for me, so I’m very grateful, and it’s even better that I was able to win.
“She’s the main reason why I started playing tennis, and just, I have seen her on TV so many times and I have always been cheering for her, so for me to play against her, and just sort of trying to detach myself a little bit from thinking that I’m playing against her and just try to think I’m playing against just a regular opponent was a little bit hard for me.”
Having suffered her earliest loss ever at the event she had won eight, times, Serena hit the exits and didn’t meet the press afterwards, instead offering a statement.
“Every tournament is an opportunity for me to better understand the areas I need to improve to be my best,” Serena said. “Naomi played a great match and I learn something each time I play. I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day. I’m so grateful for my fans who continue to support me every step of this incredible journey.”
Also on Wednesday, Serena’s BFF Victoria Azarenka rolled to a 6-3, 6-0 victory over CiCi Bellis.
“I’m happy that I’m playing,” the 3-time Miami winner Azarenka said. “I don’t want to be over-the-moon happy, because I’m still in the tournament, and I want to continue to reach any heights and new goals, so I’m trying to be happy, grateful, but also humble and focused for the next match, because I’m still in the tournament and I want to do better.”
Azarenka now has a big showdown against Madison Keys in a big showdown today.
Former Grand Slam semifinal Andrea Petkovic was also a winner along with Ekatarina Makarova, Monica Puig and Alize Cornet who beat the returning Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
On the first day of men’s play, American hope Taylor Fritz was bounced by Pierre Hugues-Herbert. Jared Donaldson beat Marcos Baghdatis, Benoit Paire ousted Mischa Zverev and Vasek Pospisil chopped down Ivo Karlovic.
Among the other Thursday highlights, world No. 1 Simona Halep meets Oceane Dodin, Frances Tiafoe is in action and so two are US Open winners Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens.
Denis Shapovalov, Alex De Minaur and Thanasi Kokkinakis are also on court.
THURSDAY MIAMI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 11:00 am
WTA –  A. Kerber (GER) vs J. Larsson (SWE)
ATP – L. Mayer (ARG) vs D. Young (USA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA –  S. Halep (ROU) vs [LL] O. Dodin (FRA)
WTA – [WC] A. Tomljanovic (AUS) vs  S. Stephens (USA)
WTA – [WC] V. Azarenka (BLR) vs  M. Keys (USA)
Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP – N. Kicker (ARG) vs F. Tiafoe (USA)
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