Naomi Osaka: I was just really honored to play Sharapova

Tanya Simon
March 11, 2018

Maria Sharapova was sent crashing out of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Wednesday after suffering a first-round defeat to Japan's Naomi Osaka.

The former world number one, and twice a victor in the California desert, Sharapova was one of the tournament's major attractions after missing the last two events. Whereas, the Russian was struggling with the return especially with Osaka's pace causing some troubles. Nonetheless, Sharapova was able to regain her composure, recovering from the huge deficit to return level after playing an impressive return game to grab back the break with a return victor.

Another unforced error from Sharapova's backhand sealed the set and the win for Osaka, who will now face former world No 2 Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.

Sharapova, who returned to the tour in April past year after a 15-month doping ban, fought back to 4-4 but then a double fault handed Osaka a set point which she took. Sharapova's mentality went haywire at the sight of pressure once more, while Osaka's game, despite producing some flashes of inconsistency at times, was easily overpowering over the five-time Grand Slam champion in their first meeting.

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The pair exchanged breaks twice in the second set before Osaka again took control at 4-4, booking her ticket to the second round by winning match point against the Russian's serve. But at 5-5, the pressure appeared to get to the former world No 1 as she double-faulted to hand the initiative to Osaka.

A two-time champion at Indian Wells, Sharapova's average start to the year continued with a loss to Naomi Osaka.

Sharapova won the title in 2006 and 2013, but her bid for a third came to an end at the first hurdle.

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