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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Indian Wells: Naomi Osaka faces potential rematch with Dubai conqueror Kristina Mladenovic

World No 1 was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by the Frenchwoman in her first match as world No 1 at last month's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Naomi Osaka, left, shakes hands with Kristina Mladenovic, right, after losing to her at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February. EPA
Naomi Osaka, left, shakes hands with Kristina Mladenovic, right, after losing to her at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February. EPA

World No 1 Naomi Osaka could face a rematch with Kristina Mladenovic, the woman who shocked her at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, in her first match at the Indian Wells Masters.

The 6-3, 6-3 loss in Dubai last month, where Osaka was broken seven times by her French opponent, was her first match since being crowned world No 1 after winning the Australian Open in January.

Osaka admitted post-match she was struggling to handle the pressures of being at the top of the women's game.

If Mladenovic, the world No 65, gets the better of Saisai Zheng then it will set her up against Osaka. Osaka, who is the defending champion at Indian Wells, has a bye to the second round of the Masters 1000 tournament in California.

But while Osaka may not welcome a potential rematch against her Dubai conqueror, 23-time major champion Serena Williams will be equally less then thrilled with the draw swhich pits her against five past grand slam victors, if the draw goes to form, if she hopes to win her first tournament since returning last year after becoming a mother.

The world No 10 could potentially face Victoria Azarenka in the second round followed by Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep and Osaka in the final final.

The main draw at Indian Wells begins on March 7, with the finals of both the men's and women's action taking place on March 16-17.

Updated: March 5, 2019 12:25 PM

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