Red-hot Osaka powers past Serena in Miami

Naomi Osaka of Japan waves to the crowd after her match against Serena Williams of the United States (not pictured) on day two of the Miami Open at Tennis Center at Crandon Park. Osaka won 6-3, 6-2.(Reuters/USA Today pic)

MIAMI:  Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka defeated 23-times grand slam champion Serena Williams 6-3 6-2 in the Miami Open first round on Wednesday, the latest big win for the emerging 20-year-old Japanese player.

The pair were on serve in the first set of their first career meeting until Osaka forced break point chances at 3-3 and Williams was unable to deal with a blistering backhand at her feet.

The world number 22 broke Williams again after a back-and-forth deuce battle to take the first set.

Osaka’s powerful serving and relentless return game were even stronger in the second and she broke Williams to go 3-1 up and was never threatened again.

The match ended on an ugly unforced error by Williams, who hit a wide open forehand long to send Osaka into the second round, where she will face world number four Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

“I was extremely nervous coming on to the court. I don’t know if anybody knows this but Serena is my favorite player,” Osaka said in an on-court interview.

“So just playing against her is kind of like a dream for me. I’m very grateful I was able to play her and it is even better that I was able to win.”

The 36-year-old Williams, playing her fourth match since the birth of her first child in September, is still working her way into form and although demonstrating her trademark power, she struggled to move smoothly around the court.

Osaka looked fresh despite having played seven matches in Indian Wells to capture her first career title on Sunday.

Some felt it was unfair that the Miami Open allowed Williams, an eight-times champion at the tournament, to play Osaka in the first round.

“Serena should have a special seeding, but also WTA should use the most current ranking,” tennis commentator and former world number one Lindsay Davenport said on the Tennis Channel.

“The men do it. It’s too big a tournament to have something like this happen.”

Osaka’s win over Williams was her latest victory over some of the biggest names in the sport.

She defeated former grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, fifth seed Karolina Pliskova and world number one Simona Halep in Indian Wells.