Tennis

Naomi Osaka continues to cruise at Miami Open, into 3rd round after beating Angelique Kerber

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Two days, two wins and making it look easy.

Naomi Osaka sure seems like herself again.

The former world No. 1 is through to the third round at the Miami Open, easily handling 13th-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday. It was every bit as one-sided as the score made it seem, with Osaka winning 89% of first-serve points and 61 of the 100 points played in the match overall.

« It means a lot to me, » said Osaka, unseeded in Miami after falling to No. 77 in the world because she’s missed considerable time to focus on her mental health in recent years. « She’s the first high-seeded player I’ve beaten this year. »

And when it comes to high-ranked opponents, the drought was even longer.

Kerber is ranked 15th in the world; the last time Osaka defeated a top-15-ranked player was when she topped then-No. 10 Serena Williams in the 2021 Australian Open semifinals. Osaka went on to win that tournament and hasn’t been to a final since, but her win over Kerber — who had been 4-1 against Osaka entering Thursday — certainly made her look the part of a Miami contender.

« I went into the match just really wanting to play my game, » said Osaka, who has yet to drop a set in her two matches in Miami; she beat Astra Sharma 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday. « I still have the memories of all the matches she’s beaten me before. So yeah, I just wanted to play as well as I could. It worked out. »

Kerber’s loss was part of a tough day for seeded players on the women’s side.

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No. 18 Leylah Fernandez, No. 25 Daria Kasatkina and No. 31 Alize Cornet were all defeated Thursday, all in straight sets. Fernandez — a US Open finalist last year — lost to Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Muchova, who hasn’t played since the US Open nearly seven months ago because of an abdominal injury, will face Osaka for a spot in the round of 16.

« For me, it was a win to play and compete again, » Muchova said.

Cornet lost to Alison Riske of the US 6-2, 6-2, and Kasatkina fell to Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 7-6 (5), 6-4.

No. 9 seed Danielle Collins of the US escaped the upset bug, holding off Anna Bondar of Hungary 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur was another winner, getting past Poland’s Magda Linette 7-6 (1), 6-2.

Among the men’s winners was Sebastian Korda of the US; he made the quarterfinals at Miami last year. He rolled past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 6-1, 6-1 in a first-round match, getting off the court in just over an hour on a summer-like day in South Florida.

« I’m a Florida boy, » Korda said. « I love the humidity. Heat and humidity, those are my two favorite things. I just play some really good tennis in them. »

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