The world no. 1 and the top seed Naomi Osaka has opened Indian Wells title defense with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Kristina Mladenovic in an hour and 21 minutes for the tenth win of the season. A few weeks ago in Dubai, it was Mladenovic who celebrated the victory although that could never be the case today, facing ten break points and suffering three breaks while converting only once chance on the return which was enough for the better result.
The Japanese served at 71% and had the advantage in the pivotal moments, reducing the damage in her games and winning 42% of the return points to keep the pressure on the return all the time. Naomi had 24 winners and the same number of errors, controlling the pace and leaving Mladenovic on a 16-24 ratio, taking eight points more than the French girl to kick off the title run in style.
The first break of the match came in game six when Kristina hit a double fault to drop serve on the fourth break point she offered to Naomi who saved a break point in game nine before sealing the deal with a backhand down the line winner for a 6-3.
The Japanese secured another break in game three of the second set after a volley error from Mladenovic who made another one in the seventh game to find herself 5-2 down. Kristina erased one break in the next game when Naomi hit a double fault, moving closer to 4-5 and creating a break point in game ten that could have kept her in contention.
Osaka saved it with a service winner and she fired another one to seize the match point and advance into the next round.