World number 44 Naomi Osaka has defeated two-time Indian Wells champion Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 35 minutes. Former world number 1 didn't play at Indian Wells since 2015 and this is her worst result in the desert since 2003 when she also lost in the opening round! This was their first meeting and the Japanese had the strings of the match in her hands, despite serving at 50%.
She outplayed the Russian on both the first and the second serve and won 52% of the return points to steal Sharapova's serve five times from six opportunities she created. Maria scored three breaks of serve from as many chances but it wasn't enough for a more positive result, getting broken in the last game of each set which cost her dearly in the end.
Osaka will now meet Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round while Sharapova will head towards Miami, hoping for a better result and to end this three-match losing streak that started at the Australian Open. The Russian struggled to find the pace with her backhand and serve, unable to impose her shots in the rallies or to defend against such a solid ball striker like Osaka is.
Naomi had her ups and downs as well, losing the advantage in both sets but two late breaks got the job done for her, wrapping up a win when Maria missed a backhand in the 10th game of set number two. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin has been trying to qualify for the main draw in the past two years and she finally managed to do that on her third attempt, facing an even younger Claire Liu in the first round.
Kenin scored a 6-2 6-0 win for a rock solid main draw debut in the desert, needing an hour to dismiss wold number 251. These two have met three times before on the lower-ranked events and Liu earned the first two wins before Kenin edges her in Norman last year.
Today it was all about the older American who saved three out of four break points to control the scoreboard all the time. Liu served at 84% but that gave her pretty much nothing, dropping 64% of the points on serve and suffering six breaks from nine opportunities she offered to Sofia.
It was a shaky start for both players, with a break of serve in the first three games and another break chance in game four. Kenin saved it to open up a 3-1 lead and she settled into a nice rhythm after that, breaking again in game seven to close the set on own serve a few minutes later.
Liu had nothing left in the tank in set number two and she got broken three times to hit the exit door after just an hour spent on the court, unable to resist Kenin's shots or to seize the control from the baseline with her groundstrokes.
Maria Sakkari has had a slow start of 2018, heading to Indian Wells with just one win under her belt and things are already looking better for her following a 6-4 6-2 triumph over Donna Vekic in an hour and 22 minutes. The Croat couldn't find her serve (she landed a miserable 35% of the first serve in) and she lost 55% of the points in her games, getting broken five times from eight chances that Sakkari created.
Vekic had her opportunities on the return as well, creating seven break chances but converting only two, which wasn't enough to prolong the match and stay in contention longer. There were no breaks of serve in the opening seven games and then Sakkari grabbed two in game eight and 10 to take the opener 6-4.
She saved three break points at the start of set number two to gain the additional momentum and she raced into a 3-0 lead with a break at love in game two. Donna managed to break back in game five, reducing the deficit to 3-2, but that was all we saw from her since Maria broke her in games six and eight to close the match and reach the second round in style. First round results: