Two-time champion Maria Sharapova fell out of the Indian Wells Masters on opening night at the event. The former No. 1 had no answer for the overpowering 20-year-old Naomi Osaka who scored a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“I knew [Sharapova] would fight for everything because I’ve watched her since I was little,” Osaka said. “I was just really honored to play her.
“Everybody knows that she fights for every point, so I just tried to tell myself if I fight for every point too, then it could be an equal match.”
Osaka will now face Agnieszka Radwanska. Sharapova, who won Indian Wells in 2006 and 2013, has lost her last three matches and since returning last April, she has made just one final.
“I’ve been working through a few physical things,” Sharapova said, “and that’s been frustrating because there’s been a lot of starts and stops since I’ve come back and that hasn’t really given me the type of playing match rhythm that I really wanted, but I felt like I committed today and there are a lot of good things that I can take away.
“It hasn’t been an easy couple of weeks since Doha, trying to get healthy, but it’s there, I need some time. I’ve done it before. It’s obviously frustrating to lose these types of matches that you get ready for and you want to win but it’s part of the process, I realize that.”
Among the other results on day one, Sachia Vickery upended Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-4; Belinda Bencic beat Timea Babos in a final set breaker and Sam Stosur came from a set down to deny Lauren Davis.
On Thursday, in a night twin-bill, mothers Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka make their tour returns. Serena will take on Zarina Diyas while Azarenka meets Heather Watson.
“It’s official,” Serena posted on Instagram. “My comeback is here. This Thursday I will start playing tennis again professionally for the first time since giving birth to my daughter. This whole month I am playing tournaments in California and Florida- both my home states. Thursday, the day I play my very first match, marks international women’s day.”
The men also take the court led by Americans Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson and a clash between Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz.
THURSDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 Starts At 11:00 Am
1st Rd Taylor Fritz VS (WC) Reilly Opelka
Not Before 1:00 Pm
1st Rd (Q) Sara Sorribes Tormo VS Catherine Bellis
1st Rd Steve Johnson VS Daniil Medvedev
1st Rd Ryan Harrison VS Federico Delbonis
Not Before 7:00 Pm
1st Rd Serena Williams VS Zarina Diyas
1st Rd (WC) Victoria Azarenka VS Heather Watson
STADIUM 2 Starts At 11:00 Am
1st Rd (WC) Danielle Collins VS (Q) Taylor Townsend
1st Rd Borna Coric VS Donald Young
1st Rd (WC) Sofya Zhuk VS Alizé Cornet
1st Rd Denis Shapovalov VS (Q) Ricardas Berankis
1st Rd Jared Donaldson VS (Q) Evan King
Not Before 8:30 Pm
1st Rd Karen Khachanov VS Evgeny Donskoy
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