Naomi Osaka acknowledges Iga Swiatek's dominance, addresses her improvements

Osaka took a moment to acknowledge Swiatek's dominance after her latest Indian Wells win.

by Dzevad Mesic
Naomi Osaka acknowledges Iga Swiatek's dominance, addresses her improvements
© Getty Images Sport - Michael Owens

Naomi Osaka made sure to acknowledge to a reporter that she hasn't been the top-ranked player in the game for quite some time and that Iga Swiatek has been dominating the Tour for the past couple of years. 

On Saturday, former world No. 1 Osaka ousted No. 14 seed Liudmila Samsonova 7-5 6-3 to reach the Indian Wells third round as a wildcard. For Osaka - who was out for 16 months due to pregnancy before returning to tennis in January - this is the first time this season that she has won back-to-back matches.

Following her very notable win over Samsonova, Osaka was asked to share her thoughts on taking time away as the world No. 1 and then return to playing on the biggest stage.

"I wasn’t the number one player – Iga... Iga’s been number one for like four years," Osaka responded with a laugh.

Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek
Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek© Getty Images Sport - Michael Reaves

After capturing her second Grand Slam title at the 2019 Australian Open, Osaka officially became the world No. 1 for the first time in her career on January 28th. In her first stint as the top-ranked player in the world, Osaka spent 21 weeks. Later in the summer of 2019, Osaka lost the world No. 1 spot but was able to regain it and spend there four more weeks before losing the top spot again. 

Meanwhile, Swiatek - the current world No. 1 - has been the top-ranked player for the majority of the time since reaching the top spot for the first time on April 2nd, 2022. On Monday, Swiatek will be entering her 94th as the world No. 1. 

Osaka on her current level 

After Osaka easily defeated Sara Errani 6-3 6-1, Samsonova was expected to be a much more difficult opponent for the four-time Grand Slam champion.

But Osaka came out firing and playing well as the Japanese claimed an early 4-1 lead before suffering a bit of collapse and losing the next four games as Samsonova went 5-4 up and had a chance to serve out for the first set. In those moments, Osaka showed some great mental strength as she responded with back-to-back breaks and won the next three games to steal the opener from the Russian. 

Up by a set, Osaka also earned the first break of the second set in the fourth game and then held on to her serve for the remainder of the set to complete a two-set win.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

"Definitely I think match play is really important for me and just getting in certain situations and not feeling like I'm unsure of what to do," Osaka said.

"But I definitely felt like I was more confident today with, like, the set point and just kind of trusting myself and knowing that no matter what happens, like, go for my shots and don't live life with regret.

"I think of course in Australia, like, those, what was it, like 0 to 12 breakpoints or something, I definitely felt like now I do a lot more with my shots (smiling)." 

Osaka ahead of facing Elise Mertens 

After starting her Indian Wells run with two strong wins, Osaka hopes to continue his fine form in the remainder of the tournament because there are still some things she would like to test in her game in the desert.

"Yeah, I would say I'm aware of what I want to do, and I have a plan. I think you can see glimpses of my plan while I'm playing, but there's still a few creaks that I want to get out, and thankfully I'm able to play another match and able to have another opportunity to I guess execute my vision a lot more," Osaka explained.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

In the Indian Wells third round, Osaka's next opponent will be world No. 28 Mertens, who defeated Wang Xinyu 6-1 6-4 after a first-round bye.

When Osaka. 26, and 28-year-old Mertens meet in Indian Wells, it will be their fifth meeting. Going into the match, the Japanese tennis star owns a 3-1 head-to-head record against the Belgian. 

Mertens beat Osaka in their first meeting in 2017 Wuhan but since then the four-time Grand Slam champion has won their last three meetings. 

"She's a great player. The last time I remember playing her was 2020, the Cincinnati that was at the US Open, unless I played her later and I just have no memory of that," Osaka said of facing Mertens.

"She's a great player. She is consistent, and I think she, for me, gives me just trouble with -- I don't know how to say this -- like, her ball tempo. So it's going to be really interesting."

Naomi Osaka Iga Swiatek Indian Wells