Naomi Osaka gets brutal projected path to second Indian Wells title

Osaka to start against a qualifier in Indian Wells but then she could potentially face a couple of top-5 players.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Naomi Osaka gets brutal projected path to second Indian Wells title
© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Naomi Osaka will be starting against a qualifier in Indian Wells but then it will probably get significantly tougher if the former world No. 1 keeps progressing in the tournament. 

Osaka, who lifted her first WTA title in a very impressive way by winning a WTA 1000 tournament in Indian Wells in 2018, is returning to the desert this year after not playing last year due to pregnancy.

In the first match of what will be the start of her fourth Indian Wells appearance, Osaka will play against a qualifier, whose name she will learn after the qualifying is completed. If Osaka beats the qualifier, she will have her first big test in Indian Wells as she will play then against No. 14 seed Liudmila Samsonova.

In the round-of-16, Osaka could potentially meet No. 24 seed Elise Mertens while third-seeded Coco Gauff would be her likely opponent if she made the Indian Wells quarterfinal. Should Osaka reach the Indian Wells semifinal, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka would likely be awaiting for her there.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

In case Osaka makes her second Indian Wells final this year, her two most likely opponents are No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek and fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina

Overall, it's a pretty tough draw but Osaka - now ranked at No 287 in the world - is unseeded so there is nothing particularly surprising there.

How Osaka did in Indian Wells in the past?

In her Indian Wells debut in 2018, Osaka - who was 20 at the time - put up a major run as beat several major names en route to the title. That year in the desert, the list of players that Osaka defeated include Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina in the final.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman
 

The following year, Osaka returned to Indian Wells as the defending champion and won her opening two matches to improve to 9-0 in the desert. But then, Osaka's Indian Wells title defense ended in the round-of-16 following a loss to Belinda Bencic.

When Osaka returned to Indian Wells for her third appearance in 2022, she defeated Sloane Stephens in the first round before losing to Veronika Kudermetova in her following match. 

As mentioned above, Osaka didn't compete in Indian Wells last year because she was expecting her first child at the time.

Naomi Osaka Indian Wells
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