INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – That No. 1 ranking and those back-to-back majors don’t just come by showing up.
So here’s Naomi Osaka doing the stairs in the main stadium earlier in the week, as she got ready to defend her first career title.
It was a year ago that Osaka, then ranked No. 44 after starting the year at No. 70, ran the table in the desert.
She shocked Maria Sharapova in the first round, and only lost one set through to the title, winning the final over another neophyte at that level, Daria Kasatkina.
A year later, she showed a few nerves as she headed out to that same stadium court to play her first match Saturday night.
As it was, she faced Kristina Mladenovic, who had defeated her in her first match in Dubai. That was the first – and until Saturday had been the only – match Osaka played since winning the Australian Open.
So it was nervy on a lot of levels. But even though she was broken the first time she served for the match in the second set, she got through 6-3, 6-4.
Next up is Collins
Osaka will face No. 25 seed Danielle Collins (a surprise semifinalist here a year ago) in the third round.
Collins had two first-round losses to show for her efforts after reaching the semifinals in Melbourne. But she got things back on the right track with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Kirsten Flipkens to open her tournament.
Here’s Osaka doing the stairs with trainer Abul Sillah – the funniest part is her father pulling a Rosie Ruiz (Google it).
Sloane Stephens was on the court practicing at the time – a former Sillah player. She was giving him the gears pretty good as he impressively kept up with the much younger Osaka.