World no. 1 Naomi Osaka set to challenge Petra Kvitova in Birmingham


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World no. 1 Naomi Osaka set to challenge Petra Kvitova in Birmingham

A year ago, the upcoming star Naomi Osaka was ranked just outside the top-20, struggling to find the pace on clay and grass and losing three out of four hard-court matches before the US Open. In New York, Naomi introduced herself to the entire tennis world, destroying six out of seven rivals and toppling Serena Williams in the title clash to write history as the first Japanese Grand Slam champion.

Naomi played only three tournaments by the end of the season, settling into the top-10 and enjoying in her New York triumph, preparing for 2019 that could not have started in a better way, toppling all the rivals at the Australian Open for the second straight Grand Slam crown at the age of 21.

With extra 2000 points on her tally, Naomi became world no. 1, the youngest one since 2010, and the first player since Jennifer Capriati to win a Grand Slam title right after the first one. The results were not there in the following months and Naomi withdrew before the semi-final in Stuttgart with abdominal injury last week, working on a comeback for Madrid and Rome.

After a clay swing, Osaka will chase significant results on grass as well, joining Petra Kvitova at Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham in June. After losing in the qualifying round in 2016, Osaka competed in the main draw in Birmingham in the last couple of seasons, losing in the second round and hoping for a much deeper run at the Edgbaston Priory Club between June 17-23.

"I'm excited to come back to Birmingham. I enjoy the challenge of playing on grass and I've had some great matches and results on it, so this year should be fun. British crowds are great to play in front of so I'm looking forward to it," Osaka said.