18th seed Naomi Osaka will head into her second round match a heavy favourite against British wildcard Katie Boulter. At just 21 years of age, Boulter ranked #122 in the world, is playing in just the second Grand Slam of her career and picked up her first win at a Major on Tuesday. Osaka is actually younger, at 20, but she has a greater wealth of experience, having already appeared in ten Grand Slam events and advanced through to the third or fourth round more than once. Who will win?
These two met for the first time just last month, in the first round in Birmingham. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the distance between their rankings, it was Osaka who got the job done with relative ease, winning 6-1 6-2. Indeed, the match saw a dominant performance from the Indian Wells champion as she lost just 10 of 45 points behind her serve while winning more than half of the points on Boulter’s serve.
As mentioned, Osaka also has a significant advantage in Grand Slam experience. While Boulter has competed in just one other main draw, Osaka has been racking up appearances since the age of 18. Both made their Wimbledon debuts last year, but Osaka won through to the third round whilst Boulter lost in her first match. Osaka has made the fourth round at the Australian Open and the third round at Roland Garros, both this year, giving her an overall 16-9 record at the Grand Slams.
Path to the second round
Boulter had a fine grass court season ahead of the Championships, reaching the quarterfinals in Nottingham, where she lost to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty, and the final at the ITF tournament in Southsea (lost to Flipkens). Her first round match at Wimbledon pitted her against Paraguay's Veronica Cepede Royg, ranked just one place below her at 123rd in the world. It was thus unsurprisingly a close match, one Boulter did well to escape, winning 6-4 5-7 6-4.
In contrast, Osaka had things very easy. After a run to the semifinals in Nottingham, she retired in her second match at the Birmingham Classic, but looked fully recovered against Romania’s Monica Niculescu, who she faced at the All England Club. Niculescu is far from an easy opponent, having made it as far as the fourth round at Wimbledon in the past. But Osaka didn’t miss a beat in her victory, winning through to the second round 6-4 6-1 in just over an hour.
How do they match up?
Unfortunately for Boulter, Osaka has far more weapons in this match up, hence her superior world ranking and comfortable victory when the two met last month. Both of them play right-handed baseline games with double-handed backhands, but Osaka has more power and precision on both wings. Her forehand is particularly powerful, and she also has a strong serve which makes her extremely difficult to break. Boulter is a capable and improving hitter, but not at the level of Osaka.
In what will be a disappointment to the Wimbledon crowd, Boulter will fall in the second round. There is no doubt she is developing as a player, but Osaka, despite her young age, is far further along, and shouldn’t have too many problems getting the job done. The Japanese will overwhelm Boulter and advance through to her fifth successive Grand Slam third round with a straight sets victory.
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