Petra Kvitova vs. Naomi Osaka
I watched Naomi Osaka take apart Madison Keys in the 2018 US Open semifinal. It became clear to me that Osaka could hit with power like many on tour and could also scramble and play defense and could also counter-punch turning defense to offense. At the conclusion of the match, I thought Osaka could easily become the best player in the world quite quickly. She is on the cusp of #1 and that makes her championship match in Melbourne a bit tricky.
Petra Kvitova has two-Wimbledon titles, an Olympic bronze medal, a season-ending championship, and an inspiring comeback story. Kvitova also has been part of 6 Federation Cup titles. She certainly has the resume to handle a pressure-packed match with the #1 ranking hanging in the balance. Beyond that Kvitova has a bigger serve, a lefty game, and the ability to hit winners from the baseline as well as good touch at the net.
Osaka is to my mind the best player in the world. Win or lose, she is the player with the brightest future (at hard court events at least) for the 2019-2021 seasons. Still, I think she faces an opponent who presents unique challenges in Kvitova. Facing someone who hits hard is not enough. Karolina Pliskova nearly knocked of Osaka as these career goals move from potential to nearly tangible. A left-handed player who hits hard and has some shot-making flare. That reality, to my mind, is a recipe for a 50-50 match with this much on the line.
What Kvitova Needs to do to Win
- Petra Kvitova needs to serve well. She needs to both serve hard and put in a high percentage of first serves.
- She needs to swing freely and put Osaka on the defensive. Osaka plays great defense, but if Osaka is dictating play, Kvitova hs no chance.
- When Kvitova is placed on the defensive she needs to take a risk to try to reverse the point or lose the point rather than being turned into a retriever.
What Osaka Needs to do to Win
- Naomi Osaka needs to move well. Great movement can give Osaka the ability to counter-punch. She will, of course, love to dictate, but Osaka will have to keep Kvitova from getting too comfortable when seemingly in charge of a given point.
- Osaka needs to serve well. First strike tennis should favor Kvitova, but the comparative advantage can be shrunk if Osaka is having a good serving night.
- Osaka needs to adjust to Kvitova’s lefty serve quickly. If she can’t, Kvitova’s left-handedness may neutralize a lot of Osaka’s mobility advantage.
My heart says, Kvitova. My head says the more steady player is the more likely to win so I lean-toward Osaka. I think Kvitova could produce a virtuoso performance as she did in her two Wimbledon championship matches. I also think the weight of the situation could pull Osaka toward earth. Still, I can’t bank on those happening so I think Osaka is a slight favorite.