Naomi Osaka dumped Serena Williams out of the Miami Open in fabulous fashion as she continued her remarkable recent run of form.
The world No. 22 beat the legendary 36-year-old in straight sets to back up her stunning victory at Indian Wells and set up another testing clash with Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.
Though it was clear Williams is not yet back to full speed after returning to the sport following the birth of her daughter, Osaka’s ruthless 6-3 6-2 win in just an hour and 17 minutes sent out a powerful message to the rest of the WTA Tour that her displays in California were not just a one off.
And fourth seed Svitolina, who has split her previous four encounters with the Japanese, will be very much wary of a player in such a rich vein of form.
Osaka said after the win: ‘I was extremely nervous coming onto the court, I don’t know if anyone knows this but Serena is my favourite player. Playing against her was a dream for me and it’s even better that I was able to win.
‘I kind of wanted to impress her and I just wanted to make her say “come on” one time and I think I did that.’
Wednesday’s tie was an eagerly anticipated encounter between an eight-time winner in Miami and a 20-year-old who idolised her opponent growing up and had just landed her first WTA title at Indian Wells.
Recent Miami Open champions (WTA)
2015: S. Williams
2014: S. Williams
2013: S. Williams
2008: S. Williams
Indeed, Osaka had listed Williams as the last player she was desperate to face in her career after meetings with her sister Venus and Maria Sharapova – both of whom she has recorded wins over.
The Japanese also had the benefit of some inside knowledge in her attempt to upset the 23-time Grand Slam champion, as current coach Sascha Bajin is a former hitting partner of the American.
And it was Osaka who struck first. A rare sloppy Williams service game was fiercely capitalised on by the youngster who broke for a 4-3 lead in the opener.
In full flow, the Indian Wells champion stormed on to win the first set, reeling off four consecutive games to take it 6-3.
Williams stopped the rot at the stop of the second, saving break points once more, but Osaka again found a way through before holding to take a 4-1 lead.