Published: Tue, March 12, 2019
Sport | By Joe Gonzales

Venus fights past frustrated Kvitova, Osaka takes Indian Wells stage

Venus fights past frustrated Kvitova, Osaka takes Indian Wells stage

World number one Naomi Osaka on Saturday launched her Indian Wells title defense with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 65th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France.

Osaka recorded a 6-3, 6-4 victory to avenge the surprise defeat she suffered to Mladenovic at last month's Dubai Tennis Championships.

"I've never been a defending champion before, that's new and I was really nervous", said Osaka, who booked a third-round meeting with American Danielle Collins, who was a 6-4, 6-1 victor over Kirsten Flipkens.

After losing 3-6 in the first set, Mladenovic fought back in the second, but Osaka kept her cool to stop her opponent from causing her issues.

A break to begin the second set put her in complete control before another gritty hold for 4-2, although there would be a brief stumble.

Williams was playing her first tournament since the Australian Open in late January, when she lost in the quarterfinals. "I just learned to be really positive and not give her anything".

"The tournament in Australia was wonderful considering all these things, the only regret is that I could not compete at my best in the final but I found a great Djokovic and I think I was missing something to be able to play at this level", Rafael Nadal added.

Yet he double faulted on the third break point he faced in the game and Nishikori raced into a 6-2 lead in the deciding tiebreak. "She has been playing so well and you never know what's going to come off her racket", Williams said in front of a fawning crowd in her native Southern California.

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She was broken four times, but proved more consistent in the bruising baseline rallies.

"I just fought and tried my hardest", said Williams, now ranked 36th in the world.

Nadal added: "I play in Indian Wells then let's what happens with Miami".

Earlier, Roger Federer beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-1, 7-5 in the second round.

The 38-year-old veteran American broke the Czech once more in the match's final game, letting loose with a euphoric scream as she sealed one of her most impressive victories in recent memory. "After that, things went better for me".

Women's fifth seed Karolina Pliskova started on a rusty note, but eventually beat Japanese qualifier Misaki Doi 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-1.

Italian 16th seed Fognini went down to qualifier Radu Albot 6-0 7-6 (7-4), while Pouille suffered a 6-2 3-6 6-4 loss to Hubert Hurkacz.

Barthel's compatriot Angelique Kerber was almost ideal en route to a 6-0 6-2 dismantling of Yulia Putintseva, winning 93 percent of her first service points under sunny skies in the Southern California desert.

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